September 23 2022

How to create a more inclusive workplace

Creating real inclusion in your organisation may start with good intentions, but it can’t stop there. Here’s a step-by-step practical guide to changing your workplace for the better.


1. Create a workplace policy

If you don’t already have one, work with your employees to draft a policy to cover equality, diversity and inclusion. This is sometimes called 'Equal Opportunities’ or Fairness, Inclusion and Respect’.

The policy should outline how the business commits to treating everyone fairly; what kind of behaviour is expected of employees; what the law says about discrimination; and what the procedures are for resolving any problems.

Then make an action plan to put the policy into practice, including training for all staff, how to monitor results, how to assess the effectiveness of the policy and make any changes needed, who will be in charge of implementing it, and by when.


2. Put the policy into action

Make sure managers and employees understand the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in every area of the business, then update your procedures covering:

  • recruitment
  • training and promotion
  • equal pay
  • dress code
  • religious beliefs and practice
  • unacceptable behaviour
  • firing and redundancy
  • parental leave
  • flexible working



Make sure you advertise new jobs in at least two different places to reach people from different demographics. You can also use job ads to say that you’re an equal opportunities employer - this means you welcome applications from:

  • anyone who meets the essential requirements of the job
  • anyone who is under-represented in your organisation (for example, candidates with disabilities) – this is called 'positive action'

When taking positive action, you’ll need to be able to prove it’s been thought through and doesn’t discriminate against others.

You can also train managers in skills like:

  • having an inclusive attitude
  • avoiding unconscious bias
  • choosing the best applicants using the job description and person specification (rather than vibe, chemistry, or anything else that could come down to unconscious bias)


Training and promotion

All staff should get training that explains your equality, diversity and inclusion policy, and shows why it's important to value everyone's differences and how to put that into practice. Make this part of your onboarding process for new staff too. If you need support for training, organisations such as Supply Chain Sustainability School offer courses in equality, diversity and inclusion.

Review your procedures around performance reviews and promotions too. There should be no questions about whether someone fits in, or whether someone can apply for a more senior role because they may have a protected characteristic.


Equal pay

Check regularly that everyone doing equal work has equal terms covering:

  • pay
  • benefits
  • terms and conditions in their employment contracts

While the equal pay law is focused on gender discrimination, people can make pay discrimination claims for any protected characteristic, such as race, religion, age or disability.


Dress code

Make sure your workplace dress code doesn’t discriminate against any protected characteristics (for example, not allowing an employee to wear a hijab with her uniform).


Religious beliefs and practice 

Employees are legally protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of:

  • religion
  • religious belief
  • having less belief than someone else, or no belief ( e.g. atheism)

Make sure any issues of religious intolerance are handled promptly and fairly.  It is important to agree all reasonable requests around religion, for example time off for religious holidays, religious dietary requirements, or observing prayer times at work. This is a complex area, so it worth talking to an expert, or reaching out for help, such as the ACAS helpline.


Unacceptable behaviour

Make it clear in your workplace policies and practices what counts as unacceptable behaviour at work, and make sure you follow full and fair grievance and disciplinary procedures.


Firing and redundancy

Anyone who believes they were fired or made redundant because of a protected characteristic could sue you for unfair dismissal.  If they leave their job over bullying or harassment that you are perceived to do nothing to stop, they could claim constructive dismissal.

Make sure that if you need to make staff redundant, you avoid letting unconscious bias influence who you pick.


Parental leave

Make sure parents don’t miss out on job opportunities, training opportunities, or important information because of:

  • antenatal appointments
  • pregnancy
  • maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • Shared Parental Leave


Flexible working

Allowing flexible working where you can will help you avoid the risk of discrimination because of a protected characteristic.  


3. Keep communicating

Inclusion isn’t just a matter of policy, it’s also a matter of relationships. Employees will be more likely to get on board when they feel valued, are clear on the organisation’s goals and values and understand the part they feel in achieving them.

Make them feel included by being transparent with them about how the business is doing and holding open meetings where they can ask the leadership questions. Also consider holding activities to encourage inclusion at work, such as National Inclusion Week (September), Mental Health Awareness Week (May), Black History Month (October) and LGBT History Month (February).

You may want to appoint an equality, diversity and inclusion champion at a senior level who can flag up issues to address and speak up for underrepresented groups. Even then, all senior leaders should act as role models for inclusion and encourage everyone to have a more inclusive attitude.

Diversity and inclusion can make a real difference to recruitment, retention and morale when they become part of the culture and how everyone in the organisation behaves.

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