Equality & Diversity in the "New Normal"

Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from any form of harassment, discrimination or bullying in the workplace. However, we know that workplace discrimination is still a major concern.

It reminds me of what happened to ‘Sue’, the only female in a team of 10 employees. She asks her manager if she can leave 15 minutes early every evening so she is not late for her child-minder and explains she will make up the time by arriving early each morning. John, her manager, doesn't believe in flexible working, and responds with a flat NO without further discussion. I hear you shout in horror, “How dare he be so unreasonable!” 

As the lead member for finance and resources at London Borough of Sutton. I am proud to say that Sutton Council has a flexible working policy and is now participating in blind recruitment. Sutton continues to work towards greater equality & diversity so that our workforce broadly reflects the community it serves. 

Good decision-making is facilitated when residents’ voices are heard and efforts are made to work together for harmony. Sutton Council has been a long-standing advocate of diversity and inclusion and this has been articulated for staff through our PRIDE values. Sutton Council is redoubling efforts to identify and remove any barriers that prevent people from achieving their career goals. The council has made progress towards a workforce that broadly reflects the community it serves, employing the same proportion of staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities 26% as last year, nearly matching the BAME representation of Sutton’s community, which is 27%.

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained international recognition in the summer of 2020, Sutton moved quickly to identify and understand the concerns being raised. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Helen Bailey and Council Leader Ruth Dombey held urgent virtual meetings, which led to the creation of a working group comprising representatives of the BAME staff network and of the communications, policy, HR and partnerships teams. Helen Bailey attends the working group and outcomes are actioned and kept under review, with HR leading on policy and practice change.  

I write this article after more than a year of a global Covid-19 pandemic that has affected all our lives. Various research studies have found that new ways of working were embraced by all. Yet, debate continues on when life will revert to some semblance of normality. 

It seems likely that we will all be living with The new Normal, which is also the name of an important 7-country report drawing on a survey of 14,000 people on the impacts of COVID-19 on trust, social cohesion, democracy and expectations for an uncertain future. I do hope that within the new normal, Sue (the only female employee) and John, her manager who is set in his ways, will be able to have a discussion and that John will be coached and trained on the importance of a diverse workforce along with how to communicate and empathise.

One thing I am sure of is that equality and diversity will enable us to strive towards cultural harmony within this globally connected multicultural society. 

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