Discrimination affects one in four workers

Almost one in four UK employees (23%) say they or a colleague have been discriminated against in the past 12 months, according to research from Learnlight

Despite these high rates of discrimination in the workplace, just over half (51%) of employees are sure that their employer has a policy to promote diversity and inclusion.

Employees in large multinational businesses were more likely to have experienced discrimination in the past 12 months, with 27% of employees in these businesses claiming to have done so compared with 14% in small businesses.

The research reveals that even businesses that have D&I policies are suffering from them not being adhered to. One in three employees (30%) said their organisation’s policy was ‘usually’ adhered to but that sometimes senior managers get around it and HR doesn’t prevent this from happening. Another 9% thought their company’s policy was just a box-ticking exercise, while 49% felt that the policy was strictly adhered to.

While businesses of all sizes are affected, the issue of ignoring policy appears worse among smaller organisations. Twenty-eight per cent of employees at multinational businesses said senior managers sometimes ignored D&I policies, and 8% said it was a box-ticking exercise, compared to 32% and 9% respectively in small businesses.

The research also found that 22% of UK employees aren’t certain their workplace is truly diverse, with 19% saying it definitely isn’t and 3% being unsure. The issue is more pronounced higher up the ranks, with four in 10 (40%) respondents not convinced their workplace is diverse at senior management level. One in four (25%) respondents aren’t certain their workplace is inclusive, with 18% saying it definitely isn’t and 7% being unsure.

Benjamin Joseph, co-founder and CEO of Learnlight, said that failure to implement effective D&I policies carries huge risks for businesses.

“Diversity and inclusion is a huge issue for HR teams to tackle. Businesses increasingly understand that diverse and inclusive organisations are not only doing the right thing but are also reducing their reputational risks and building a work environment that is more likely to result in greater profitability," he said.

However, creating a truly diverse business is complex, he added.

“While the benefits of D&I are broadly accepted, certainly among HR teams, creating truly diverse and inclusive businesses requires a broad understanding of many factors including how to develop a D&I strategy, negotiate different legal frameworks, create an inclusive culture, overcome unconscious bias, develop a business case and measure progress effectively."