If you think discrimination doesn’t exist in the workplace, you simply don’t know what it is. According to The 2019 Workforce View in Europe Report from ADP, 49% of UK workers aged between 25-34 have reported facing some type of discrimination.

That’s almost one in two people that have been discriminated against. 

For some people, this won’t be surprising. For the others, there needs to be a redefining of the term — and the impact it can have if left unaddressed. In this post from MHHP Law, these will be discussed in great detail and leave you with a better understanding of how people are suffering and what you can do to help. 

Defining discrimination and its’ different forms

According to the Equal Opportunities Commission, discrimination means “treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics”.” This, however, can be expressed in two different ways. 

Direct discrimination is when an act of discrimination is held against you directly and you are treated worse as a result of this. An example of this would be if you were perfect for a role, but not chosen due to your skin color.

An indirect indiscrimination is when a policy or rule is in place that puts certain people at a disadvantage and isn’t specific to you personally. Say that a company made employers work every Sunday — this may be okay with the majority of the team, but indirectly discriminates against people that commonly worship on a Sunday. 

Common forms of discrimination

There are many reasons people may be discriminated against. By understanding these, you can better evaluate your workplace to understand who may be getting — directly and indirectly — discriminated against frequently. 

Disability discrimination

This may be present in your office if… employees have been punished for taking disability-related absences or the office hasn’t made reasonable adjustments to the environment to better suit the employees in question. 

Race discrimination

This may be present in your office if… there are rules in place that limit opportunities because of their race, such as someone that is German being fluent in English but a role not accepting them because they require a native English speaker. 

Gender discrimination

This may be present in your office if… there is a pay imbalance between men and women in similar roles, or if certain questions are asked of women in interviews that aren’t asked of men. 

Pregnancy/maternity discrimination

This may be present in your office if… you don’t allow pregnant women appropriate space to pump breast milk, or you refuse to hire someone simply because they’re pregnant. 

Sexual orientation discrimination

This may be present in your office if… a homosexual man is referred to by a feminine version of his name, or anyone is asked inappropriate questions about their same-gender relationship. 

The cost of discrimination

The most pertinent cost is the impact it can have on the person suffering it. It can severely impact their confidence, ability to perform, and mental health. Outside of the personal impact, it can ripple throughout the team so people not even affected by that discrimination are upset by it. 

In some cases, people will leave the company — meaning you will now have a new position to fill. According to a report by SHRM, the average cost-per-hire for companies is over $4,000 (so just over £3,000), while the average time to fill a position can be a lengthy 42 days; this isn’t even considering their personal impact it could have on the team if they are all friendly.

On a much larger scale, an analysis of the payment practices in over 500 UK workplaces’ found that GDP would be approximately 7% higher if ethnic, sexual orientation and gender discrimination could be eliminated. That is because, according to research from INvolve and The Centre for Economics and Business Research, “discriminatory pay practices cost the UK economy £127 billion in lost output each year.”

Of that £127 billion, studies show that gender discrimination is responsible for £123 billion — whereas £2.6 billion is a result of ethnic discrimination.  

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What you can do about it

The first step is understanding discrimination — how it occurs and the effect that it can have on people that suffer from it. The worst thing you could do is plead ignorance to it existing, because all this does is invalidate the victim and make them feel like they’re not important.

Establish an impartial HR team

A human resources department can go a long way to help with this, which is why smaller businesses may be even more prone to discrimination as they may not be large enough to have an established HR team yet. If this is the case, the people in charge need to take time to learn about discrimination and how to properly handle those in distress, to fill in that role to a degree.

Build a diverse team

Building an ethnically/racially diverse team can also help stem discrimination. While improved communications between those people can also go a long way. This is because a positive work environment, where people feel comfortable speaking and actively get on with each other, will either cut down on discrimination naturally or make people feel more comfortable coming forward to discuss it.

Take the necessary steps

The truth is that completely preventing these issues is difficult. So the next best step is to make sure that people at least feel comfortable discussing the issues when they arise. 

In terms of that diversity, studies have also shown that the most diverse environments are “12 percentage points more likely to financially outperform their industry average than the least diverse firms” — as reported by Onrec.

Some companies have also found success in surveying their team, with anonymous entries permitted. This way, you can find out what affects your team directly and uniquely. Simply offering people the chance to have their voice heard will help them feel like the company is open to change.

Discrimination will likely always exist. This should not be an excuse to not try. Instead, it should be the encouragement to consistently do your best as an employee or employer to fight it where you can. In doing so, you can help unlock the potential of your team and keep them part of it much longer. This way, everyone wins. 

AvatarJack Bird

Jack Bird is a writer for MHHP Law, who believes that the potential of a team can only be unlocked when the workplace supports and understands them. This perspective, combined with his love of writing, has seen him write about office culture and discrimination across the internet.