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Census results show increased diversity if not inclusion

The latest UK Census has revealed the country is as diverse now as it has ever been, even if that is not always reflected in the workplace.

The data showed 81.7% of people in England and Wales identify as white, down from 86% when the last census was taken in 2011.

Across both countries, 10.1% of households has members identifying with two or more different ethnic groups, an increase from 8.7% in 2011, equating to 2.5 million and 2 million people respectively.

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Toby Mildon, D&I consultant at Mildon, said the diversity of the population of England and Wales shows the need for a greater emphasis on inclusivity at work.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Even though there is an increase in racial and ethnic diversity within the UK, this does not necessarily mean that businesses are more inclusive or that inequality is diminishing. While businesses can have a diverse workforce, they may not be inclusive. It is possible for a homogenous team to feel inclusive (because they fall into groupthink).

"Diversity and inclusion are often discussed, but inclusion first so that diversity follows. The UK is diverse but being inclusive is a conscious act. In order to be attractive places to work for a wide range of diverse talent available in the UK, we need to be proactive, build anti-racist organisations, and be consciously inclusive. By doing so, we boost our economy, give people meaningful work, and give them a sense of belonging."

Research from health company Essity in June 2022 found the UK to be one of the worst countries in Europe at promoting equality in the workplace. 

The UK ranked bottom for recruiting people from diverse backgrounds and providing the same opportunities to people regardless of race, religion, disability or nationality.

Binna Kandola, business psychologist, senior partner and co-founder of diversity and inclusion training providers Pearn Kandola, said a lack of comfort discussing religion at work also shows how much work remains to be done.

He said: “Inequalities can also be clearly seen in the workplace. Our research recently found that 61% of black employees and 46% of Asian employees experienced racism at work in 2021. What’s more, comfort levels discussing racism in the workplace have barely changed since 2018.

“The situation is similar when we look at religious groups. The Census revealed a rise in religious diversity across the country. Yet, many people still do not feel they are able to express their faith openly at work. In fact, we found that almost a third of UK-based Hindu employees do not feel comfortable discussing religious festivals at work, revealing a lack of inclusion, awareness and education about other religions and cultures in the workplace."

Senior leaders need to set an inclusive example, Kandola added.

He said: “If we are to make progress on racial and religious inclusivity, the workplace is a huge part of the picture. Leaders need to take accountability, fostering inclusive behaviours, setting an example when it comes to challenging stereotypical attitudes, and being open to being challenged.

“Listening to the experiences of our colleagues and having open dialogues on this emotive topic, conducted in an atmosphere which fosters trust, safety and respect for one another, are significant ways in which we can build even more inclusive workplaces.”