Diversity and inclusion an afterthought for nearly half of employers

Just under half (47%) of UK employers don't have a dedicated diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy in place, according to research from the CIPD and recruitment agency Reed.

The number of companies putting D&I initiatives on the backburner is steadily increasing. 

A third (36%) of companies said they aren't planning anything new with D&I in the next five years, and 5% said they hadn’t focused on any D&I efforts in the past five. 

A quarter (25%) of employers also described their D&I plans as reactive rather than proactive, responding to outside influences such as Black Lives Matter protests or mandatory reporting requirements.

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Jill Miller, senior diversity and inclusion policy adviser at the CIPD, said businesses should work harder to implement D&I initiatives.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Employers need to do more to prioritise equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) – the need for progress across UK workplaces is clear. Having a genuine, organisation-wide commitment to EDI will help employers address many of their current challenges and priorities, and is the right thing to do.

"Everyone should feel valued at work and be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and we know that more and more job candidates are looking to work for a responsible employer.

“A proactive, evidence-based approach to EDI is essential for meaningful and lasting change. A strategy or action plan sets aspiration across the business, sets out a long-term commitment to having a diverse, inclusive and fair workplace, and helps convey the importance of EDI to all stakeholders.

"Every aspect of the organisation should be reviewed with an inclusion lens, including the people management approach, organisation culture, policies and processes and its operations.”

Mental health (29%), race/ethnicity (23%) and gender (21%) were the top D&I priorities for businesses that had a strategy in place.

Some sectors may be fairer worse than others too. 

The CIPD reports adds to research from diversity charity Reboot and Coleman Parkes which showed a desperate need for better D&I commitment in financial services.

It found a majority (68%) of people from ethnic minority groups working in financial services had experienced workplace discrimination in the last year, with a further 25% saying racial jokes are still tolerated where they work. 

Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed had to take time off work after experiencing discrimination, while 56% had to seek counselling as a result.

Noreen Biddle Shah, founder of Reboot said: “This year’s results are concerning – from the amount of discrimination ethnic minorities are experiencing, the lack of representation in senior roles, to a continued discomfort to speak about race in the workplace.

"We need to understand the issues raised in the latest report so that we can work together to drive positive change and create more inclusive working environments for people working within the financial services industry.

"It is fair to say most individuals believe in a fair and diverse workforce, but the systems in which they operate are flawed and we need to find a way to make real changes and measure the impact. We also need allies and leaders to speak up to help normalise what is still sadly so taboo.”

The CIPD surveyed 2,009 decision makers between May and June 2022, and Reboot conducted 800 interviews in August 2022.