What is diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace

Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique.

Workplace diversity is understanding, accepting, and valuing differences between people, including those:

  • of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations
  • with differences in education, personalities, skill sets, experiences, and knowledge bases.

Inclusion in the workplace refers to the behaviours and social norms that promote collaboration and support a respectful environment that increases employee participation and contribution, absent of any barriers such as discrimination.

Equity is ensuring that opportunities are provided to all employees.

What is workplace flexibility?

A flexible work arrangement is an agreement between an employer and an individual employee to change the standard working arrangement to better accommodate an employee’s out-of-work commitments.

It usually encompasses changes to the hours, pattern, and location of work.

Flexibility is becoming increasingly important as individuals seek a balance between work and other priorities. Some examples of workplace flexibility include:

  • giving some discretion to employees to design their own rosters
  • remote access work or shift swaps
  • flexible start and finish times
  • job sharing or holding dual roles, each on a part-time basis.

Not all forms of flexibility will suit all workplaces or all jobs.

For example, it may be that part-time work isn’t suited to a certain role, but compressed hours can be accommodated. Another example is where work-from-home arrangements cannot occur. However, a job share arrangement can support an employee’s workload.

Workplace flexibility and the law

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) provides different groups of employees with the right to request a change in their working arrangements, specifically the hours, patterns, and locations of work.

A flexible working arrangement may involve a change in working arrangements for a fixed period or on an ongoing basis to accommodate a range of personal commitments.

In the case of modern award-covered employees, the employer must first discuss the request to try to reach an agreement with the employee about changes to their working conditions. A request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

All employers who receive a request must provide a written response within 21 days, which outlines whether the request is approved or refused.

While the FW Act specifies the groups that can statutorily request flexible working arrangements, any employee can approach their employer seeking flexibility. However, where no express entitlement exists or is supported as a matter of law or in an employee’s contract, the employer retains discretion in dealing with the request.

Diversity, inclusion, and the law

There are no specific diversity and inclusion laws; however, there are many laws regarding human rights, discrimination, sexual harassment, workplace bullying etc. These laws apply to all workplaces in Australia, regardless of their size. They protect employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and visitors.

It is important to understand that some personal attributes that are associated with diversity, equity and inclusion practices are protected by law under the FW Act. They include:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin.

The duty of a supervisor and manager is to enable a diverse and flexible workplace

You have a duty to act on behalf of your employer to maintain a workplace that enables diversity and workplace flexibility by:

  • implementing accountability
  • diversity and inclusion cultural embeddedness
  • creating a policy
  • implementing champions and mentor programs
  • creating an inclusive recruitment process
  • including diversity, inclusion, and workplace flexibility training in your induction.

Like to learn more?

To find out more about the responsibilities of a supervisor and manager when it comes to enabling diversity and workplace flexibility, please refer to the Sentrient series of online compliance courses for supervisors and managers.

To get a free demonstration of the supervisors’ and managers’ suite of online compliance courses, please contact us today!