Wesleyan’s Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Naheem Ahmed looks at Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace and why it is important for practices to comply with the law…
What is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?
When I explain this, I like to break it down and slightly change the wording. So, instead of equality I use the word ‘fairness’. This relates to things we don’t really see, such as pay, rewards, bonuses, incentives, maternity schemes and promotions.
Inclusion is about feeling part of your workplace and being involved in things. And then the other word I like to use is ‘respect’ instead of diversity, and that really centres around respecting other people in the workplace. For example, it is about respecting people who might believe in a certain religion or have a certain belief.
By changing these words around, it turns them into more positive language for people and it is a simpler way of explaining that everyone is the same regardless of anything else in their lives.
The biggest challenges
For me, the biggest challenges with ED&I come when someone fails to address an issue. For example, say there is an issue with diversity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a practice manager or a manager of a big corporate company, those in organisations have a responsibility to comply with the Equality Act; it is a piece of legislation that needs to be adhered to.
If businesses don’t take meaningful action to have policies in place, or action when an issue crops up then they could be leaving themselves open to action further down the line, and that is something they will always want to avoid.
Ways to comply with equality laws
I have worked in a number of different sectors and wherever I’ve worked I have always said the same thing – you have to train your staff on this topic.
That is the best piece of advice I can give, because training them in ED&I gives everyone a clear understanding of what they should do. Training about bias is really important because a lot of staff will immediately dismiss the fact they are biased straight away – however, unconsciously it does creep in with all of us.
We don’t mean to do it, but it happens without thinking. So, by training your staff they will be able to spot any bias issues and deal with them in a positive way to help the culture of the practice. The more staff members you have trained up like this, the smaller the chance you’re leaving yourself open to litigation.
Another good thing you can do is create a space or a time for employees to explain their situations to their colleagues. For example, if you have someone who is religious, it is beneficial for them to explain to others about their religion, so they can understand why, for example, they go out to pray several times a day.
It will give your staff members a better understanding of their colleague – and it will create a healthier atmosphere in your team.
What we do at Wesleyan
At Wesleyan we focus on culture and we talk to people about what they feel is important, and that helps us to shape policies and training.
At Wesleyan we have started to talk a lot more about race and what happens outside of work to help us within the workplace. We have set up foundation diversity networks for gender, race, LGBT+ and employee wellbeing. They each have an executive sponsor, who is someone that helps in terms of having a voice amongst the senior leaders at Wesleyan.
I think for any organisation, whether big or small, the important thing is to have a meaningful output and being more inclusive, because it doesn’t cost money. You can sign up for things like the the social mobility index, it’s free and can really help you to understand the topic and grow inclusivity in your practice.
Future of ED&I in dentistry
In the dental sector we have seen an increase in black, Asian and minority staff and dentists, and I am happy to say it has been a gradual increase.
It isn’t a spike, which is good, because they are unsustainable and we usually see them when there is a free government course or initiative designed to get people into dentistry.
In dentistry there are around 63 per cent white people, 24 per cent who are Asian and four per cent black and the gender parity is increasing more than it has before. A lot of it is down to supply and demand as the industry is so busy at the moment.
The industry has become a lot more flexible and that has helped with diversity. Gone are the days where people are told to work 9 to 5 and that is it. Now there is flexibility and that opens roles up to a lot more people.
Four tips to embed ED&I into your organisation
- Understand where you can go to access training and resources and get yourself educated around the subject. You can use tools like the Advisory Conciliation Service (ACAS), or the Supply Chain Sustainability School. The BBC also has a raft of resources on the topic.
- Start having more conversations with your staff on the subject and encourage them to talk openly about it
- Set up networks within your organisation where people can go and talk about diversity and challenge whether more needs to be done in the workplace
- Celebrate the things some staff celebrate. Many staff members will celebrate other holidays with their religion, so make an effort to celebrate them and include everyone.