Human Rights and Equality for Employers
While there are minimum legal requirements for employers to comply with in relation to equality and human rights, there are also enormous benefits for enterprises and companies which go further and are proactive in building a culture of equality and human rights which permeates the workplace.
In terms of good practice, building this culture can be supported by a framework of 7 elements which not only protect workers’ rights under the legislation but engage the workforce in actively promoting a culture of respect for equality and human rights.
In considering and planning how they can promote this culture, employers can learn from the experience of organisations and projects which have carried out actions in specific sectors and/or in relation to specific groups.
This section of the website provides you with a guide to the 7 elements, and a number of tools to support policy development, planning equality and human rights training, and carrying out an equality audit . It also provides guidance in relation to work-life balance, reasonable accommodation in practice (disability and mental health), the promotion of an intercultural workplace, and examples of taking positive action (in relation to Traveller employment).
Benefits of Promoting Equality and Diversity and Human Rights in the Workplace
Equality and human rights make sense for business. Research has proved that taking action on equality and diversity:
- Improves productivity
- Leads to increased market share as focussing on equality for customers helps a business to understand its customers better
- Builds a company’s reputation with staff, suppliers and customers
- Creates a better work environment for staff
- Increases innovation, problem-solving and effective decision-making within companies
- Reduces the risk of damaging discrimination cases that sap staff morale and damage the company’s reputation with customers.
Employers benefit as they:
- Attract, and retain good quality staff – by actively seeking to employ people with disabilities an organisation will send out the message that it is a progressive and positive place to work.
- Improve employment practices – an organisation committed to providing equal opportunities and which is free from harassment and discrimination will benefit from increased morale among its employees and will avoid unnecessary industrial relations problems.
- Have a broader pool of potential employees from which to draw – the broader the pool the broader the range of people, experiences and talents available to you. Don’t limit your choices by excluding potential employees.
- Attract and retain a diverse customer base – customers with disabilities are now aware of their rights under equality legislation and require services appropriate to their needs. An organisation employing people with disabilities will have a better understanding of these needs and will be better equipped to deal with them.
- Corporate social responsibility is increasingly an expectation of the public and private sector. The 3% target for employment of people with disabilities in the public sector has given some leadership in this. Addressing the large scale unemployment experienced by people with disabilities is an important expression of this responsibility.
- Avoid unlawful discrimination, costly legal fees and bad publicity – employers who provide equal opportunities in access to employment, promotion and training are less likely to end up in court facing charges of discrimination.
- Stimulate innovation – a workplace and work organisation that has the flexibility to accommodate the needs of workers with disabilities can stimulate a creativity in work practices that further enhances productivity and quality
- A flexible workplace that accommodates people with disabilities will reflect a wider capacity to take account of and value difference which will be of benefit to all employees. Employees with disabilities can also hold multiple identities as men and women with disabilities or as minority ethnic people with disabilities. The full inclusion of people with disabilities will ultimately involve a broad ranging flexibility and accommodation of difference.
- A good mix of people and experiences provides the elements needed for an exciting and innovative workplace where new ideas and new ways of thinking can flourish.
- A work environment which effectively accommodates people with disabilities or from diverse backgrounds demonstrates a valuable capacity to appreciate employees for their abilities and to have a flexibility to ensure such abilities are given full expression.
- An acceptance of difference will benefit all employees. People will want to work in an environment where personal differences are accepted and respected.
Diversity is Good for Business
Investing in equality and diversity can improve a company’s business performance. Research by the Equality Authority and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance in 2008 found that companies that invested in equality and diversity recorded increased productivity and innovation. The companies surveyed included multi-national and indigenous companies based in Ireland operating in a range of sectors. Investment in equality and diversity led to increases of 6.5% in labour productivity and 7.9% in workforce innovation for the companies sampled. Companies that invested in an overall package of strategic human resource management, diversity and equality, partnership and flexible working systems recorded the highest gains in terms of labour productivity and workforce innovation. They recorded an increase of 14.8% in labour productivity. In the companies surveyed, the gain in labour productivity for the company amounted to €299,992 per employee. Implementing a package of strategic human resource management, diversity and equality, partnership and flexible working systems increased workforce innovation by 12.2%. In the companies sampled, the increased workforce innovation generated on average €556,200 in sales from new products and services per company. This figure does not include potential future returns.
Patrick Flood et al.: New models of high performance work systems: the business case for strategic HRM, partnership and diversity and equality systems, Equality Authority / National Centre for Partnership and Performance (2008).
Equality – Positive for Business: the Results
Evidence from 76 US minority-friendly firms indicated that these firms outperformed the market by achieving superior financial performance measured by return on investment, sales and equity.
A study of the diversity of FTSE 100 directors in the UK found that there was a very strong link between high market capitalisation and the appointment of minority ethnic directors.
A study of 353 Fortune 500 companies found that those with the highest female representation in senior management positions had 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the lower level of female representation.
Kathy Monks: The Business Impact of Equality and Diversity, Equality Authority / National Centre for Partnership and Performance (2007).
Please note that these factsheets are for information only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such.