Equality in the workplace is concerned with breaking down the barriers that currently block opportunities for certain groups of people. It aims to identify and minimise the barriers that exclude people and to take action to achieve equal access to all aspects of work for everyone.
Diversity is about recognising, valuing and taking account of people's different backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and experiences, and using those differences to create a productive and effective workforce. It's important to take account of diversity and involve people when assessing risk and managing health and safety.
The Equality Act 2010 identifies nine 'protected characteristics' which are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Why tackle discrimination?
Everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work and to be free of discrimination on grounds of the nine protected characteristics. This includes having equal access to advice they may need to help them do their job safely.
Many employers have found that making adaptations to their working practices to accommodate a diverse workforce makes good business sense as well as helping them meet the requirements of equality legislation. It makes their business more attractive to both potential employees and customers and helps them recruit and retain the best people.
Health and safety should never be used as a false excuse to justify discriminatory action.
There is a lot of advice available to employers, that helps to dispel some of the myths around health and safety in the workplace. For further information please see our pages on vulnerable workers and guidance on risk management .
More information on the Equality Act 2010 can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website.