EQUALITY & DIVERSITY
What does Equality and Diversity mean?
Equality and Diversity is about accepting and embracing people’s differences and creating an environment that people can thrive in. Harnessing differences creates a productive environment in which everyone feels valued and has the space to reach their full potential. It’s about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
Equality is about treating people fairly and with respect, giving regard for others rights and wishes. It’s about creating a fairer society, where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
An equalities approach understands that our social identity – in terms of gender, race, disability, age, social class, sexuality and religion – will impact on our life experiences.
Diversity is simply otherness or those human qualities present in other individuals and groups that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong. Diversity consists of visible and non-visible differences.
Diversity encompasses the properties and characteristics of a person. It includes characteristics that are inborn and unchangeable: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/ qualities/ disabilities, race and sexual orientation, and includes differences that are acquired, and those that may change throughout our lives. Some examples include; educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, parental status, religious beliefs, health and work experience.
Historically, employers and services have ignored certain differences. However, individual and group diversity needs to be considered in order to ensure that everybody‘s needs and requirements are understood and responded to within employment practice and service design and delivery.
Why is equality and diversity important?
Equality and diversity is becoming more important in all aspects of our lives and work for a number of reasons.
We live in an increasingly diverse society and need to be able to respond appropriately and sensitively to this diversity. The people you work with and support will reflect this diversity around gender, race and ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, class and age.
JRH Support believes that successful implementation of equality and diversity in all aspects of work ensures that staff and service users are valued, motivated and treated fairly.
It is important that you consider how a person’s social identity may impact on their experience of the support you provide.
The ways in which discrimination works include stereotyping, making assumptions, patronising, humiliating and disrespecting people, or taking some people less seriously.
To ensure that we value diversity and consider the individual’s identity appropriately in the support we provide, the following principles may be useful:
Recognise that we need to treat all service users as individuals and respond to them, and their social identity, in an individual manner
Understand that treating people fairly does not mean treating people in the same way – we need to recognise difference and respond appropriately
Respect all service users regardless of their social identity
Try to increase our knowledge and understanding of aspects of social identity that may be different from our own
Avoid stereotyping or making assumptions about service users based on their social identity
Recognise that your own social identity may impact on service users in different ways
Avoid using inappropriate and disrespectful language relating to social identity.
Prejudice is a human trait that is present in all of us. Prejudices are often shaped and influenced by our immediate social circle, for example, families, friends and work colleagues. Prejudices are often expressed as negative thoughts about other people’s age, appearance, disability, gender, politics, race or religion
Almost any negative belief about others who exist outside our immediate social circle might be regarded as prejudiced.
The Equality Act, which came into force on 1 October 2010, replaced previous anti-discrimination legislation such as the Race Relations Act of 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. Although your responsibilities under the Act are largely the same as they always have been, there are some changes that will affect businesses, including the introduction of ‘protected characteristics’ and multiple forms of discrimination.
The Equality Act covers exactly the same groups of individuals that were protected by the previous legislation. However, the headings of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity are now to be known as ‘protected characteristics’.
Our social identity comprises of:
Race or ethnicity
Religion or faith
While we can face discrimination because of any of these aspects, it is important that we also identify the links between social identities and individuality and/or a state and situation. Bad treatment can be multi-layered and occur because of:
An aspect of individuality, e.g. some aspect of personal appearance, size, personal likes, etc.
Our state or situation, e.g. homelessness, being a lone parent, misuse of drugs or alcohol, citizen status, health, etc.
There are four types of discrimination:
Direct discrimination: where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, national origin, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, marital or civil partnership status or disability.
Indirect discrimination: where an apparently neutral provision, criteria orpractice would put a substantially higher proportion of the members of one sex, or persons having a racial or ethnic origin, or a particular religion or belief, or of a particular age, or a particular disability or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
Victimisation: where someone is treated less favourably than others as a result of exercising their rights e.g. where less favourable treatment is experienced by an employee who has raised a grievance; or singled out for the purpose of personal gain or fun.
Harassment: when unwanted conduct related to race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, national origin, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, marital or civil partnership status or disability, takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may take many forms including physical acts, or verbal/non verbal communications and gestures. Harassment occurs when the recipient perceives the behaviour, deliberate or not, to be offensive or objectionable.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations.
Within your role as a support worker you may at times feel it necessary to challenge others over their behaviour because you feel it is potentially discriminatory.
However, knowing what to challenge and when to challenge can be tricky, and open to personal interpretation. With regard to the behaviour of other staff members, there are some non-negotiables re inappropriate language/behaviour e.g. swearing, language that is racist/sexist/homophobic, etc. In these situations you do have a responsibility to challenge what is being said or done, and/or to report the situation to your line manager.
We can often debate over questions such as ‘What constitutes inappropriate banter?’ or ‘They meant no offence by a comment – do I still need to challenge?’
Remember - Not challenging is not a neutral act – it can be seen as colluding behaviour that infers you agree with what is being said.
You may well experience situations from time to time where you are supporting a service user who expresses strong views that discriminate against someone else or against a section of the community. This can put you in a difficult position, as on the one hand you feel a responsibility to challenge what has been said, but on the other hand you recognise that you need to maintain a positive relationship with the individual you are supporting.
How to challenge
There is no definite way to challenge inappropriate behaviour and no doubt you will find your own approach to challenging effectively. The following may be useful to consider.
Don’t punish or blame – say what is better.
Understand your audience. Think about your role in the matter and consider this in your approach.
State your position: ‘That’s disrespectful; we don’t talk about people like that.’
Understand the situation. Do you challenge there and then, or quietly at a later date? What will be most effective for the person involved/for those witnessing the incident?
Human rights are the basic rights and principles that belong to every person in the world. They are based on the core principles of dignity, fairness, equality, respect and autonomy. Human rights protect an individual’s freedom to control their day-to-day life, and effectively participate in all aspects of public life in a fair and equal way.
Human rights help individuals to flourish and achieve potential through the following:
Being safe and protected from harm
Being treated fairly and with dignity
Being able to live the life you choose
Taking an active part in your community and wider society.
Intrinsic to these statements should be the principles of equality and diversity.
Since 1998 the UK has also included human rights within its legal framework. The Human Rights Act applies to all public authorities and bodies performing a public function. The Human Rights Acts places the following responsibility on organisations such as ours.
Organisations must promote and protect individuals’ human rights. This means treating people fairly, with dignity and respect while safeguarding the rights of the wider community.
Organisations should apply core human rights values, such as equality, dignity, privacy, respect and involvement, to all organisational service planning and decision making.
Discrimination is less favourable or bad treatment of someone because of one or more aspects of their social identity.
Understanding how discrimination can impact on individuals’ lives is essential to prevent potential discrimination within in teaching and learning situations and ensure that you are confident in dealing with discrimination issues if and when they arise.