September 23 2022

Why equality and diversity matter in construction

There’s a lot of talk about equality and diversity in construction, as in every other industry.  What would a more diverse construction workforce really look like, how can we achieve it–and what’s in it for employers? Read on to find out.


Equality in Construction

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, equality means ensuring everybody has equal opportunities, and that no person is treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics.

Under the Equality Act 2010 - which protects people from discrimination - it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone because of certain “protected characteristics”, which include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


Diversity in Construction

Diversity means acknowledging, accommodating and valuing the differences between people. Right now, only 14% of workers in the construction industry are women, while for frontline construction labour the figure is closer to 4% according to Building magazine.

A diverse workforce should reflect the world we live in. Representation not only gives people from all backgrounds a fair chance; survey after survey has shown that fair representation also boosts morale and productivity for everyone.

Although UK legislation does protect minorities from discrimination, there’s no legal requirement to hire a diverse workforce. In the construction industry, companies can get the edge over the competition by investing in diversity.


Benefits of Equality and Diversity

According to the report Equality and Diversity: Good Practice for the Construction Sector, there are four main benefits to good equality and diversity practice:

  1. Efficiency savings through better staff retention
  2. A wider talent pool thanks to more diverse hiring practices
  3. A more diverse supply chain that supports small businesses
  4. Better relationships in the workforce based on respecting everyone’s differences.

Given the skills shortage in the sector, anything that boosts employee retention, widens the talent pool and encourages more people to pursue careers in construction is worth doing.

Equality and diversity also improve business decision-making. A study by decision-making platform Cloverpop found that while teams make better decisions than individuals 66% of the time, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time–and decision-making drives 95% of business performance.


What can employers do?

  1. Be clear on your current equality and diversity statistics and where you need to improve
  2. Relying on word-of-mouth recruitment could leave you with more of the same kinds of people. Start diversifying your hiring by connecting with organisations who support underrepresented groups
  3. Provide training on inclusivity and bias for all managers
  4. Have a “No Bystander” policy: encourage workers to intervene if they witness discriminatory language or behaviour
  5. Have a clear reporting process so that workers feel safe to tell management about examples of discrimination
  6. Set up a mentoring program, where recruits from underrepresented groups can get support from someone more senior in the same demographic.

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