Employers’ Law Award for Diversity in the Workplace

THIS AWARD is not just about demonstrating diversity and how it was achieved, but also proving the value and business benefits of a diverse workforce. Entries provided evidence of a complementary recruitment policy that encourages applications from under-represented groups, and a meaningful diversity training programme. Strong links to local communities and consideration of flexible working were also rewarded.

Award judge: Kay Allen is MCIPD-qualified with more than 16 years’ direct experience in HR, including stints at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, B&Q and BSkyB. Her most recent appointment was that of group head of social policy and inclusion for Royal Mail Group, and she is now commissioner at the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

The sponsor: Employers’ Law is the monthly magazine designed to help you stay informed of your legal responsibilities in the workplace, providing news, analysis and guidance. Practical features include: a ‘how-to’ section, real employment law Q&As answered by legal experts, plus a policy clinic offering tips on drafting policies with clear checklists on what to include.

The British Library
The team:
Number in team: 30 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,100

About the organisation: The UK’s national library serves business and industry, researchers, academics and students in the UK and worldwide. Each year, six million searches are generated by the British Library online catalogue, and nearly 400,000 visit its Reading Rooms.

The challenge: To ensure its approach and commitment to diversity meets greater needs and expectations in the service and workforce. The HR team was charged with delivering a programme of change, beginning in April 2006. It included implementing an age policy, disability and gender equality schemes, and disability and religion and belief guidelines.

What the organisation did:

  • The projects were achieved by setting key objectives, and organisational and legislative deadlines.
  • An engagement campaign started internally. HR distributed internal and external questionnaires, organised focus groups, posted website and intranet news items, posters and a reader bulletin.
  • The team consulted employees, service users, sector leaders, communities, experts and groups regarding projects.

Benefits and achievements:

HR has delivered an age policy, disability and gender equality schemes, a ‘disability standard’ submission, religion and belief guidelines, and a recruitment policy. It has also instigated a broad cultural change of greater stakeholder engagement, commitment and accountability for diversity, and the recognition of being an employer and service of choice.

The judge says: “This submission showed creativity in reaching a diverse stakeholder group, and good use of evidence to show what impact diversity and inclusion had on the organisation. It also demonstrated the value of consultation, and its impact was much wider in that its initiatives had the ability to influence a much wider population in terms of library users.”

The team
: HR
Number in team: 13 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 107,000

About the organisation: BT is a global communications provider, operating in 170 countries. Its services include networked IT services, local, national and international telecommunications services, and broadband and internet products and services.

The challenge: The team was tasked with the creation of a diverse workforce and inclusion through communication. BT believes inclusion is a practice brought to life through the skills of a diverse and engaged workforce.

What the organisation did:

  • Implemented a diverse approach to flexible working, with access to more than 800 diversity coaches at all levels.
  • The group has nine employee networks ranging from disability to race, to women’s and senior executive women’s networks. These groups come together to form part of BT’s diversity team and inform its employment policies.

Benefits and achievements:

  • BT was the first FTSE 100 company to introduce equal pay audits and has narrowed its pay gap to less than 3%.
  • It was the first FTSE 100 company to add sign language to its website.
  • BT has 70% of its employees working flexibly, and 14% are home workers.
  • BT was one of the first UK companies to introduce equal benefits for the same sex partners (20 years ago), domestic violence and HIV/Aids policies, and to include diversity best practice criteria in people supply contracts.

The judge says: “BT’s entry was very strong, with a very descriptive opening statement – strong on innovation and achievement. The supporting evidence showed creativity in ideas, a good breadth of initiatives, and contained some evidence on metrics and the impact of diversity on the business.”

East Sussex County Council
The team:
Number in team: 120 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 15,000

About the organisation: The council’s five divisions and their main responsibilities are: adult social services chief executive’s – responsible for trading standards, register offices, supporting economic regeneration and libraries children’s services corporate resources – responsible for managing the budget and auditing the council’s finances and transport and environment.

The challenge: The council’s personnel and training department’s main challenge was to provide practical help for disabled people, including those within the wider community.

What the organisation did:

  • HR commissioned an external survey of the experiences of disabled employees and employed a disability and diversity officer to implement the recommendations.
  • The HR team delivered regular briefing sessions for managers.
  • It established a forum for disabled staff.
  • It co-ordinated the development of the council’s disability equality scheme.

Benefits and achievements:

  • The HR initiative has improved the reputation of the council as an employer of choice with minority groups.
  • HR successfully championed the business benefits of employing a diverse workforce.
  • The council has improved its position in the Stonewall Index of the top 100 employers up from 68 in 2006 to 58 in 2007.

The judge says: “This entry had a good story to tell, and the submission was impactful. The entry made it easy to see the business benefits of the diversity programme, with very good supporting evidence. The scheme was outcome-focused.”

University of Sunderland
The team: HR
Number in team: 32 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 1,600

About the organisation: Sunderland is a modern university with high standards of teaching and research and a growing reputation as the university for enterprise, employment and opportunity.

The challenge: Strategic aims included eliminating discrimination and promoting diversity and equality of opportunity.

What the organisation did:

  • The university has a central representative equality and diversity group, feeding directly into its executive structures. Each school also has its own group so that good practice can be shared.

Benefits and achievements:

  • The university was one of the first institutions to adopt an equal pay policy, in 2003. It has conducted five equal pay audits since that time, which have demonstrated reductions of more than 7% in its gender pay gaps. The university has the lowest academic pay gap in the region.
  • HR launched a proactive response to the Sexual Orientation Regulations, promoting a new policy that supported the creation of employee and student lesbian, gay and bisexual groups. This has led to increased confidence and achievement among staff, and dialogue with the city about encouraging social inclusion. In January, Sunderland was named the top university in the UK in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

The judge says: “The approach taken by the university was wide-ranging and shows good evidence of progress. The approach appears embedded across management processes, and the reporting structure is strong. The annual report given as supporting evidence contained some good metrics.”

Yorkshire Water
The team:
Number in team: 10 Number of staff the team is responsible for: 2,300

About the organisation: Yorkshire Water manages the collection, treatment and distribution of water, supplying around 1.24 billion litres of drinking water each day.

The challenge: Yorkshire Water wanted a diversity strategy that makes a clear link between business success and diversity. This is led by a diversity steering group and delivered by the business, with HR providing co-ordination and ‘thought leadership’.

What the organisation did:

  • HR created the diversity-in-business brand ‘Open to All’.
  • It implemented diversity awareness customer experience training for front-line staff.
  • This was a nationally-acclaimed recruitment, retention, progression and diversity project.
  • Progress reports were presented to the board every six months.
  • The HR team ran a two-day diversity conference for the whole business and external stakeholders.

Benefits and achievements:

  • There was an increase in the company’s BME (black and minority ethnic) workforce from 2.5% to 4.5%.
  • The scheme led to the first female and BME recruits to a number of operational front-line roles.
  • One in three employees are now involved in company-sponsored community volunteering.

The judge says: “This entry showed good use of business measures that demonstrated the change impact. There was excellent supporting material, and the clear vision of where this organisation wants to get to really came through.”

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