Socio-economic factors in the workplace
A person’s background should never determine their future, but still, in today’s Britain, it does. Since 2010, the Equality Act has made it unlawful to discriminate against people covered under its nine protected characteristics, but there is nothing in law to protect those who face discrimination because of their socio-economic circumstances.
In practice, this means that people in the workplace are both, directly and indirectly, discriminated against because of not only where they were born, where they went to school, whether they went to university (and if so, where), where they live now, what their accent is, and how much money they’ve got. They’re also discriminated against because of where their parents were born, what type of environment they were brought up in, their parent’s level of educational attainment, and how much money their parents have. Put simply, many people don’t even have a chance from the day they were born.
In a country like Britain, born out of a long-standing class system, this sort of socio-economic discrimination prevailed long before the Equality Act and clearly should have been factored into it. However, at the moment, for those of us who want to make our workplaces as diverse and inclusive as possible, we are just going to have to take this in hand.
For us here at enei, we started with recruitment. Of course, all organisations want candidates of a high calibre, but too many think this can only be gained by recruiting people who have demonstrated they have the capability and commitment to do the job through the capability and commitment demonstrated by having completed their degree. Of course, there are some jobs where certain qualifications are necessary. I definitely wouldn’t want a surgeon to be operating on me who hadn’t been to medical school. But for so many jobs, a university education is not the only route to success. So we decided to drop qualifications from our person specifications, and it has yielded incredible results.
There are some jobs where certain qualifications are necessary. I definitely wouldn’t want a surgeon to be operating on me who hadn’t been to medical school. But for so many jobs, a university education is not the only route to success.Sandi Wassmer
The pool of talent we now have access to is much wider, the diversity of thought far greater, and the perspectives and approaches to life and our work much deeper and broader. In turn, this has resulted in more creativity and innovation, and far more challenge of our practices and norms. It is utterly exhilarating!
This blog post was written by Sandi Wassmer, CEO, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion. It was originally posted on 30 September 2021 and revised in July 2022.
Additional enei resources
- Case Study: Imperial College Healthcare Trust – Spotlight on Social Inclusion
- Case Study: The Mitie Foundation – Spotlight on Inclusive Recruitment
- Employer Guide: Inclusive Recruitment
- Employer Guide: Social Inclusion in the Workplace
- Infographic: Inclusive Recruitment
- Quick Guide: Inclusive Recruitment