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Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Learning Outcomes

This unit will teach you to:

Understand the organisational aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

1.1 Explain the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion

Understand the personal aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace


All businesses require a group of people to work together harmoniously in order to be successful. This means that a collection of individuals, all with different backgrounds, ages and beliefs, must be able to work in a way that highlights their strengths. In order for this to work each person in the business environment must have a strong understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion and how to respect others that they work with. In this unit we will look at equality, diversity and inclusion in depth and discuss the benefits of having a diversified workforce.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

To be able to treat everyone fairly in the workplace, each person must be given the opportunity to work to the same standards and must not be discriminated against it any way. This relies on each individual having a strong understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion. To start this unit we will look at the differences between these aspects.


Equality is about treating each person the same as everyone else. Members of the workforce deserve to have the same opportunities regardless of their age, race, gender, class, religion or disability. This means that individuals should not be overlooked when allowing new opportunities in a job role.

It was not always the case that each person is granted the same opportunity as their co-workers. In the past, workers from different races, religions or backgrounds have been granted special license to access higher paid jobs and certain opportunities. Today this is not the case and in the UK there are many laws in place to ensure each person is treated fairly. This being said, it is still possible that equality standards may fall short in certain areas which can include:

Training opportunities- it may be more difficult for certain workers to access training because of the hours that they work or the area of business that they are involved in. 

Part-time or temporary workers- people who work less hours for an organisation may find it harder to access the same opportunities as those that are full-time.

Workers who use English as a second language- it can be more difficult for organisations to provide fair opportunities in this case as it can be harder to source translations.

Older workers- people that are coming up to retirement age may find that they have few opportunities in their role

All opportunities within the workplace should be made as accessible as possible. Every person that wishes to improve upon their skills and developing their career should be allowed to do so. Ensuring that each employee is treated fairly and the same as others, regardless of any personal factors, is the true meaning of equality in the workplace.

Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace


The value of diversity is found in all walks of life. A team, which is very diverse, will have a much broader skill set than one that is made of people who know all the same things. Think about your job at the moment- there will be things that you can do very well and things that you are not as confident with. If you were to create a clone of you then you may be able to work faster and get more done but this clone would still have the same weaknesses as you. 1.1 Explain the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion Now think about finding a person who has skills in other areas- this person is great at things you find most challenging but struggles with your favourite tasks. This type of person will be much more valuable to a team as they will compliment your own skills and together you can tackle a wider range of tasks to a very high level. People not only differ in skills but can have a range of differences including:

Beliefs, faith and customs Sexual orientation Gender Background

Skills and abilities

Each of these differences should be valued and appreciated. It is these differences which can help to progress groups as each person will bring a different perspective, skill or preference to the table and improve the team performance as a whole.

The value of diversity

Diversity is a fantastic thing for any group or organisation. The differences that people bring to the table will help the team as a whole have a wider range of skills and perspectives that can come in use at any time.

This diversity can have many important outcomes for an organisation such as:

  • A much wider talent pool and skill set for a group of people
  • Different opinions, perspectives and values to give another viewpoint on the company’s activities.
  • A group with diverse backgrounds will contain people who know the customs of other countries or people- opening the door to new markets.
  • A culture that celebrates diversity and sparks innovation.
  • A dynamic work environment where people are able to celebrate their originality and be proud of their differences.
  • Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

All of these factors will have a huge impact on a business. They will make the company better to work with for customers, open to more opportunity and a nicer area to work in- leading to high levels of loyalty and a reduced staff turnover.


Inclusion ties in very close with both equality and diversity- it ensures that each person feels valued and part of the group dynamic within a business. Every person working in an organisation should feel included in the way that the business operates. This will make each employee feel supported in their role by all of those around them. By doing this, each person will feel valued and recognised for the role that they play in the organisation. 1.1 Explain the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion

Key terms

Equality- Is about giving each person the same access to opportunities and treating them fairly

Diversity- Is about recognising that each person is unique and valuing their differences

Inclusion- Is ensuring that each person is valued and taken account of within an organisation

Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Impacts on organisational policy

Equality, diversity and inclusion should be incorporated into all companies and will be covered clearly in policies and procedures. This makes it clear how employees are handled in relation to equality and diversity and ensures each person works to the same standards.

All other policies that are made should be checked against equality, diversity and inclusion laws so that they do not violate what is in place. Doing so would run the risk of the company not meeting standards of equality that are universally accepted. This can impact policies in an organisation such as:

  • Recruitment policies- new recruits must be given the same chance at employment regardless of their ethnicity, religion or background.
  • Training- everyone must have the same access to training methods and opportunities and should not be discriminated against.
  • Health and safety- every person in the organisation should meet the standards of the company with regards to safety and must not be given any special license because of their background.
  • Fire and evacuation- procedures relating to fires and evacuation should not benefit certain individuals and each employee must be kept safe on the premises.

Any other policy used in a company must be in line with equality and diversity. This will not only integrate into almost every other policy but should also be remembered when organising office space, fire procedures and safety. This is especially important when people with disabilities are working in an organisation as special measures should be taken to ensure evacuation is possible. This means that fire procedures must be well-thought-out to ensure wider doorways are used and no stairs are necessary. Without these special measures it would be impossible for wheelchair users to evacuate the premises.

Equal opportunities legislation

Treating all people linked with a company fairly is essential to being able to work in a harmonious manner with colleagues. This relates to who people are, where they live, any disabilities people could have and for them to be treated fairly regardless of whether you like them or not.

This is true when working with other employees, managers, customers or anybody else that you come across in your role within the business.

The Equality Act 2010

In 2010 the Equality Act was put in place by the UK government to protect people who access goods and services from being discriminated against on the grounds of their:

Marriage or civil partnership RacePregnancy or maternity Gender


Sexual orientation Disability

This act aims to protect all people, not just those that may be vulnerable from being discriminated against and is in place to stop any people from unfairly judging or treating people differently.


The term disability has a very broad meaning. It can relate to lots of different things including physical disabilities or mental capabilities that may be short or long term. The adverse effects of these disabilities will hinder a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks that most take for granted.

All disabled people should be treated fairly and in the same manner as an able bodied person. Some organisations use ramps or special equipment to assist physically disabled people and ensure that they are able to carry out tasks just the same as able-bodied employees. People with other disabilities will have the right to work in the same manner as staff without a disability and so special measures may be taken to support this. The Equality Act requires companies to put in place:

Reasonable changes to the way that things are done. This includes things like adaptations to policies and procedures, changing practices to include everyone and changing a ‘No Dogs’ policy to incorporate guide dogs.

Reasonable changes to premises. This will include disabled ramps, handrails or wider doors to allow access.

Providing auxiliary aids and services. Having the option of large print, braille or audio that assists clients is included here.

Adequate protection needs to be given to people who have a disability but this does not necessarily need to be at huge lengths for the company. All staff in a business will have a hand in implementing any changes as they will be dealing with colleagues and clients directly and able to spot any potential issues that could arise

Consequences of equality breaches

Companies that do not meet equality and diversity policies run the risk of severe consequences. This can either be legal issues or problems that are encountered internally as staff will not be happy if someone is discriminated against. 1.1 Explain the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion

‘Consequences’ are the effects of breaking equality laws that are explained in the Equality Act 2010. Discriminating against people in the workplace means that they are treated less favourably for a reason to do with one or more of the characteristics explained in the Equality Act which could include:

Marriage or civil partnership RacePregnancy or maternity Gender


Sexual orientation Disability

Indirect discrimination can also occur in the workplace when an employer places conditions or requirements on a job that prevents certain members of staff from doing these duties. This could include, for example, not putting in place enough help and protection for people with additional needs so that they can complete tasks.

Breaching equality and diversity laws can have a large impact on the workforce and even results in legal prosecution. An employee who is discriminated against will have reduced motivation, sense of inclusion and morale in their job. This will often affect a persons productivity, loyalty to a company and may even affect their health. Should this be the case, employees have the right to gather legal advice in case they are entitled to compensation. This can be in the case of disabled employees who may feel that their rights have been breached due to negligence by an employer. A disabled employee may require access ramps or wider doorways simply for them to be able to access the building and carry out their duties. Another example is if an employee is discriminated against due to their sex or sexual orientation when working for a company. This can happen in certain industries that are historically dominated by one particular demographic such as women being discriminated against on building sites or men being unfairly judged for working in certain industries such as childcare. Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Nominated responsibilities regarding equality, diversity and inclusion

Certain people that work within the company can be nominated to monitor employee relations regarding equality, diversity and inclusion. This will ensure that employees have someone that they can discuss their concerns with should they feel they are being unfairly treated. It is good work practice to have a designated human resources manager in any company who can provide help and advice to both employees and employers.

Employers have many responsibilities for their workforce. These can include offering both part and full-time work as well as flexible working arrangements. By doing this, employees are safeguarded against any negligence and can be safe in the knowledge that they are being treated fairly at all times. For a company to operate ethically they should adhere to all legislation that is in place by UK law.

One of the main responsibilities set out in the Equality Act requires

employees to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to working practice in order to accommodate disabled employees or people from backgrounds different to those that they already employ. This can include the use of access ramps for disabled employees, allowing job applicants to feel in forms using a computer, rather than handwritten, or any other reasonable changes that can be made to help employees. 

Unit 5: Understand equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Forms of discrimination and harassment

In equality, diversity and inclusion law, discrimination is defined as treating one person less favourably than another who has similar skills and qualifications. Should two employees have the same work background, work ethic and experience their personal backgrounds should not affect their chances of success. Four different types of discrimination are recognised by the law: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. 1.1 Explain the difference between equality, diversity and inclusion

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of one of the characteristics listed in the law. Equality legislation also explains that a person should not be discriminated against because they associate with someone who has protected characteristics.

This form of discrimination is usually very obvious in the workplace. To share direct discrimination, one persons treatments must be compared to that of someone else. The Equality Act calls this person a comparator.

Example- A couple who are planning their wedding visit a venue and fill out a form stating that they are Irish Travellers. Within the Equality Act, Irish Travellers are defined as an ethnic group and therefore should not be treated differently because of this fact. The manager of the hotel tells the couple that they are fully booked on the day that they require. On the way out of the hotel the couple overhear the deputy manager offer the same date to another couple who are not Irish Travellers. This is direct discrimination because the couple have been unfairly treated purely because of their ethnicity.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is usually unintentional. It occurs when a policy of or procedure is in place that affects each person in the same way but this policy has a worse effect on some people than others. The policy must still refer to one of the protected characteristics and will often put each person with this characteristic at the same disadvantage. An employer is only guilty of indirect discrimination if they do not have good enough reason for the policy. Indirect discrimination is usually associated with an entire group that share the same protected characteristic rather than individuals who are discriminated against in one specific scenario.

Example- In your employment contracts there is a clause which states that you must travel the country at short notice. You find this difficult to do as you are a woman and the sole carer for two young children. This is indirect discrimination against women, who are most likely to be primary carers children, and even against anyone with a family.


Harassment takes place when a person behaves in a way that causes others to feel distressed, threatened or humiliated. When this behaviour relates to one of the protected characteristics, it is seen as harassment under Equality Law. This could take the form of offensive language, physical violence, humiliation, racist or homophobic comments, spreading rumours or unwelcomed sexual advance. Harassment not only treats two sets of people differently because of a protected characteristic, but actively has a negative effect on certain individuals.


Victimisation occurs when a person is treated differently because they have made a complaint about discrimination. Once a complaint is made referring to either direct discrimination, indirect discrimination or harassment, the person making the complaint should be treated in the same way as everybody else

Example- A woman makes a complaint about unwanted sexual advances from her line manager. As a result she is denied promotion, which is seen to be a direct result of her making a complaint. This is seen as victimisation and action could be taken against the employer under the Equality Act.