Building a more equal workplace

Julian cole portrait.

Julian Cole

Senior Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411


It’s Pride Month - the annual, joyful celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

For employers, it’s an opportune time to reflect on just how ‘equal’ their organisation is, how safe and welcoming it is to all employees, and how well it’s set up to support every individual in being their very best.

Because, sadly, discrimination remains an insidious presence in workplaces. This is despite the protections afforded by the Equality Act which specifically prohibits discrimination (direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation) because of sexual orientation. The situation raises the question: what can employers do to promote equality at work?


Raising awareness and understanding of the benefits of diversity at work can be vital in building a supportive, healthy and happy workforce. Training all staff to promote equality and to avoid, recognise, and stand up to discriminatory behaviour (including unconscious bias) will put everyone in good stead to be a valuable and valued team player.  


Written policies are the framework for fair practices and procedures. Employers should have policies covering various aspects of their relationship with employees, processes that will be followed, and the employer’s approach to certain behaviours. An equal opportunities policy is a must, as are policies around harassment and bullying, and discipline and grievance. Employers should regularly review their policies to make sure they remain up-to-date and that they cover the full range of people who are, or may become, part of the workforce.

Risk assessments

Do you have the measure of the discrimination risk that exists in your organisation? The EHRC has identified risk factors for harassment as including: power imbalances, lone working, a lack of diversity, the presence of alcohol. Consulting staff on these risks and on their view of the organisation’s culture can be useful as part of a risk assessment.

An open culture

Creating a safe environment for people to raise concerns means problems may be resolved at an early stage. Employees should know where to turn and that the person they speak to will treat them with empathy, sensitivity, and will take an informed approach to handling the issues. This applies whether the employee is reporting something that has happened to them, or to someone else.

Tackling problems

An employee may choose not to report a problem for fear that that might make the situation worse, or that the employer wouldn’t do anything about it anyway. An employer’s ‘zero-tolerance’ of discrimination, for example, must be more than just words on a page. Managers need to be trained in taking what may, from time to time, be uncomfortable action, in the interests of resolving a situation in the best possible way (the problems have to be tackled). This is often where we come in, advising on employment law compliance alongside the practical implications that various courses of action may have on people and the organisation.

These are just some of the steps employers should be taking to build and maintain a more equal workplace. And these steps are ongoing. The best employers are constantly viewing their organisation from different perspectives and making sure they’re doing all they can to remove barriers, bias and inequality. Switching from a ‘what do we have to do?’ to a ‘what more could we do?’ approach may be key to creating the ‘right’ kind of workplace.

Contact our team on or call on 01264 353411 for advice about this, or any workplace issue.

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