Why is equality and diversity in the workplace important?

Work still needs to be done to achieve equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK. Here is everything you need to know

Why is equality and diversity in the workplace important?

While progress has been made, more work needs to be done to achieve equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK. This is true not only in the mortgage industry, but across all sectors.

The Equality Act 2010 is a step in the right direction, but there are also ways that individual companies can promote equality and diversity in the workplace.

In this article, we will define equality and diversity, outline strategies you can take to promote inclusion, and outline equality and diversity workplace policies in the UK. Here is everything you need to know.

What is equality and diversity in the workplace?

Equality and diversity in the workplace can mean many things. Perhaps above all, equality and diversity promote treating all members of your mortgage team the same—fairly. This includes respecting each member of staff’s cultural background, race, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, skills, career experiences, and more.    

Joanne Hollins, Head of Intermediary Mortgage Distribution with Metro Bank,  knows first-hand the importance of equality and diversity in the workplace. Not only has she taken the opportunities given to her, but she has also excelled in them—enough to be named Mortgage Introducer Elite Women 2023.

“Don’t consider the opportunity, take the opportunity,” Hollins said. “It is a wonderful industry to work in and one that offers genuine career prospects for all. I am blessed to work for an amazing company that is fully inclusive, with Diversity and Inclusion at its core, and I do think this has really permeated into the mortgage industry over the last five years, ensuring our industry really does provide opportunity for all.”

The difference between equality and diversity

Equality ensures everyone has equal opportunity in the workplace and is treated the same, despite their individual characteristics. Diversity, on the other hand, is about creating a culture that values individual differences for the benefit of each team member, each business, and society. Diverse workplaces usually include a variety of people, with differences between them like race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and age, among others.

Why diversity and inclusion are so important

Diversity in the workplace comes with numerous benefits that can provide your mortgage business with a competitive edge. Not only does diversity breed a wide range of ideas, resources, and skills for your company, but it also adds a unique energy that is extremely valuable in an office environment.

Diversity also provides mortgage companies with a larger talent pool, allowing organizations that embrace diversity to benefit from increased productivity spurred by a broader market. Companies that foster diversity also tend to gain respect from outsiders, boosting their profile and popularity in the community.

Among the obvious, there are other benefits of diversity and inclusion, including:

  • When employees are happy in the workplace, absences decrease
  • A diverse work environment promotes collaboration and teamwork
  • When employees feel understood, loyalty and retention are stronger
  • With correct policies and procedures in place, discrimination claims are less likely to occur

How can you promote equality and diversity in the UK workplace?

Workplace discrimination remains a major concern across all sectors in the UK. Companies must therefore be proactive in providing training. To help, there are several concrete steps your mortgage company can take to promote equality and diversity in the workplace. Let’s look at seven steps you can take to promote equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK:

  1. Address unconscious bias
  2. Create equality, diversity, and inclusion policies
  3. Be more conscious of language
  4. Ensure objective is clear
  5. Be proactive
  6. Ask for advice, if needed
  7. Beware of indirect discrimination

Here is a closer look at each so you will be better able to promote equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK:

1. Address unconscious bias

Unconscious biases, which we all have, need to be acknowledged and addressed before they can be effectively dealt with. To become aware of your own biases, take an Implicit Association Test (IAT). There are nine protected characteristics that you should pay particular attention to, including:

  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender reassignment
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Marriage

2. Create equality, diversity, and inclusion policies 

All employees should be treated fairly in all daily activities and work-related decisions, such as pay, promotion, work allocation, recruitment, and training. Among the many reasons employers must embrace people’s differences is that diverse workplaces are more profitable. To take equality, diversity, and inclusion one step further is to enact specific policies for your workplace to get the most out of your team.

3. Be more conscious of language

It is important that all your company’s communications be free of sexist and otherwise discriminatory language. Careless language, even if unintentional, creates the perception of inequality. It makes people feel more vulnerable. Stereotyping has the same effect.

Toward this end, it is important to update corporate documents and forms with respect to pronouns, for instance.

4. Ensure objective is clear

Make sure you have clear and objective criteria to ensure that you always make decisions based on merit—without bias—especially in recruiting, training, and promoting. If there is a concern about a specific manager, team, or business unit, you can achieve this by encouraging group decision-making or conducting audits.

5. Be proactive

Rather than follow rules for rules’ sake, you can be proactive and work toward eliminating unconscious bias. Otherwise, unconscious bias will continue to play a role in the workplace. The upside to this is that Generation Z, i.e., those under 25 years of age, are twice as likely as older generations to promote inclusion by challenging norms. In other words, empowering your team to call out discriminatory practices does help.

6. Ask for advice, if needed

When making complex decisions—such as terminating contracts, for instance—your human resources or legal and compliance departments can offer good advice on how best to avoid discrimination or unconscious bias. This is a great way to ensure that the rules are being followed properly.

7. Beware of indirect discrimination

It is also important to ensure your mortgage company policy does not mistakenly put certain groups at a disadvantage. For instance, someone who wears their hair longer for religious reasons could be discriminated against if the policy indicates employees must be “clean cut.” Other issues may arise if a predatory manager hides behind a veil of “just joking” when their behavior is clearly harassment.

There are steps you can take to improve equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK.

Tiba Raja, Executive Director with Market Financial Solutions, said that while senior roles within the mortgage industry still tend to be male-dominated, progress is being made. “I do see women now surfacing,” Raja said. “I promote it within my company, so most of our managers are women—I love it.”

Tiba is proud of the diversity in her team – 62% of the management team are women, and 42% of her colleagues are from minority groups. She offers some suggestions on creating a diverse team in this piece she wrote for Mortgage Introducer.

What are equality and diversity policies in the UK workplace?

Equality and diversity policies in the workplace in the UK include the Equality Act 2010, which includes the following:

  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation
  • Foster good relations between different parts of the community

The Equality Act protects employees in the UK against discrimination on the grounds of protected characteristics, which include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Equality and diversity in the workplace: Staff support networks

Staff support networks provide direct support in helping to maintain the UK government’s equality and diversity policies. Through ongoing engagement, these networks provide insight on the lived experience of people in the UK. They also lead events to ensure staff and line management remain aware of how to respond to different needs.

Some of these staff support networks include:

  • ABLE: The Home Office’s disability network
  • a:gender: The cross-government network for transgender, transsexual, and intersex staff
  • Christian Network
  • GEN: Gender Equality Network (formerly Home Office Women)
  • Hindu Connection
  • Home Office Islamic Network (HOIN)
  • Jewish Network (J-Net)
  • The NETWORK: The Home Office race equality network
  • Sikh Association
  • Spectrum: For lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender staff

Progress has been made in equality and diversity in the UK workplace. But there is still a way to go. For instance, as of 2023, the median gender pay gap in the UK is 14.9% in favour of men. And as recently as 2019, a study found 68% of sexual harassment in the workplace was experienced by LGBTQ workers. To further protect your team, it is important to do your research and enact policies that will work best for them.

Before committing yourself to applying for a mortgage to buy a house in the UK, do your research such as checking in on what the best women mortgage lenders in your area can do for you.

Do you have experience with promoting or maintaining equality and diversity in the workplace in the UK? Let us know in the comment section below.