Diversity and discrimination

2021 Emerging themes


2021 Report

The 2021 Report explored how demographics, migration, globalisation and social trends were all driving diversity and how the business benefits of building a diverse organisation were becoming increasingly apparent.

The 2021 Report reflected on the role the law has to play in combating discrimination as it evolves to grapple with issues of conflicting rights in the workplace and keep pace with the increasing use of algorithms and AI in decision-making. The rise in homeworking, while welcome by many, posed new risks of discrimination which employers needed to address.

Increased stakeholder scrutiny, from investors, employees, consumers and regulators, prompted closer attention to equity, diversity and inclusion. The 2021 Report identified that the need to improve organisational transparency and to address discrimination in a positive and effective way would become even more important for organisations. It also explored how many employers were adopting new policies and approaches, which went beyond minimum legal requirements in order to attract and retain employees. Diversity and discrimination affect primarily the who of work.

Read extract from 2021 Report

2022 and beyond

Stakeholder expectations, skills shortages and the impact of the rapid and significant shift to new ways of working continue to drive focus on increasing diversity and combat discrimination in the workplace.

Driven in part by the growing attention paid to employer values, acting on improving diversity and taking steps to combat discrimination remains high up on organisations’ agendas. The increased difficulty in hiring good candidates over the last twelve months means that employers continue to look outside of traditional hiring pools to find candidates.  

One area receiving particular attention over the last twelve months has been the disadvantage many women suffer in the workplace during menopause. Another area has been neurodiversity and the disadvantage to which people with some form of autism spectrum disorder or Asperger syndrome are often subjected. The Neurodiversity Hub and this CIPD guide on neurodiversity at work set out useful guidance for employers to consider.

Another area of focus has been socio-economic discrimination. The Social Mobility Foundation reported that the so-called Class Pay Gap (the difference in pay between those of professional/managerial origin and those of working class origin) is now £6,718 per year. Lewis Silkin comments on the drivers behind an increasing number of organisations reporting voluntarily in this area as a measure to address social mobility disadvantage in the workplace.

With more and more organisations adopting home and hybrid working arrangements, these models risk exacerbating socio-economic and racial inequalities in society and holding back progress on equity and inclusion in the workplace because of the potentially discriminatory impact of those arrangements on some segments of the workforce.

Post-Brexit scope to depart from EU employment laws will give the UK the opportunity to look at the law governing positive action to address under-representation of groups with protected characteristics. However, reforming discrimination laws does not form part of the government’s so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill.

Nonetheless, certain politicians and sections of the media present diversity campaigners as “woke”, seeking to push back on what they see as left-wing identity politics. This push back elevates the risk of increasing divisions by pitting different groups against each other by weaponising these issues.

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