As mentioned in the introduction to this course, one of the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is ‘A More Equal Wales’, defined as:
A society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter what their background or circumstances (including their socio economic circumstances).
Achieving greater diversity in your organisation, both in leadership/decision-making roles and in the broader workforce, is one step towards this goal, but diversity and equality are not the same thing. Equality in the workplace is about equal opportunities for everyone, which means equal chances to:
- apply and be selected for posts (pre-employment)
- be trained and promoted while employed
- have your employment terminated equally and fairly.
In the UK, the key piece of legislation protecting people’s rights to such equal opportunities is the Equality Act 2010. Denying the right to equal opportunities in the workplace is effectively discrimination, which is unlawful under the Act.
A body called the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was established in 2007 to promote and protect the workplace rights covered by the Act. The EHRC replaced the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Disability Rights Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality.
The Equality Act 2010 specifies nine areas that it terms ‘protected characteristics’. These are (in alphabetical order):
- gender reassignment
- marital or civil partnership status
- pregnancy and maternity
- race (including colour, nationality, ethnic and national origin)
- religious background
- sexual orientation.
You will probably recognise that these are very similar to the categories identified by Ahmed (2018) in the discussion from Activity 12. Before exploring some of the protected characteristics in more depth, here’s a short activity to clarify the difference between equality and equity.
Activity 13 Equality or equity?
Read the short article (650 words) titledon the Social Change UK website. Then spend a few minutes trying to think of an example of how equity has contributed – or could contribute – to greater equality in your own organisation. Conversely, you might have an example of when equity was used incorrectly; if so, how would you address this?
You can make some notes in the box below.
As the conclusion to the article notes:
Equality and equity may be inherently different but are also bound together. In order to create true equality of opportunity, equity is needed to ensure that everyone has the same chance of getting there. However, we must act cautiously when dealing with equity; providing too little to those who need it and too much to those who do not can further exacerbate the inequalities we see today.