Talking About Protected Characteristics

The Equality Act 2010 sets out nine protected characteristics. These are sex, age, disability, gender-reassignment, status as to marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. People can sometimes feel afraid about talking about these characteristics for fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or causing offence. However, talking about these protected characteristics may be unavoidable in certain workplace situations.

Firms should not ignore conversations that they feel are challenging. The right Human Resources support can champion awareness, training, and competence around Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I). In addition, with HR assistance, businesses can promote a mindset of curiosity around these conversations

If you do not understand a characteristic, find guidance to help you through. You may wish to seek advice from relevant, reputable organisations to help understand, for example, religious beliefs, traditions and customs. You, as an employer, have a duty of care to understand Protected Characteristics recognised by UK law.

It is key that organisations get this right. If you're asking employees, suppliers, and customers to consider and include underrepresented groups, it is unlikely to be successful without a deeper understanding of those groups' struggles or boundaries.

It can be wholly disengaging if somebody feels they are not included, or do not belong, due to how they dress or behave, their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or simply not being in keeping with traditional business stereotypes. Unfortunately, societies continue to have distinct ideas about "normal". Therefore, inclusivity for all must be paramount.

Businesses making more diverse, equitable, and inclusive strategies for their employees, customers, and communities are meeting the expectations of the FCA in representing all customers and clients. Also , as proven in many studies, diversity can be fundamental to a firm's success. That's why achieving and measuring real change, and meaningful impact are critical components of business-led agendas for DE&I

Focussing on DE&I is essential for the evolution of modern-day business. The power of different communities is collectively raising the insurance markets' consciousness to build a platform for equitable change.

If you require assistance with your DE&I agenda, please get in touch with the team at IHRS, who can assist in navigating your DE&I policies and procedures.

About the author

Laura is a HR professional with 20 years’ experience with Financial Services, the majority of which has been within insurance. In her role with UKGI Group, Laura provides objective support to firms on employment law and HR issues. She uses her interpersonal skills and knowledge to work with firms to help them develop strong and resilient HR strategies and establish healthy organisational cultures. Laura’s clients receive personalised support with a real can-do approach.

Laura is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). She holds a Diploma Professional Development Scheme.

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