Myths about Equality and Diversity

staff in a meeting

04 / 1 / 2014 Midnight

A number of myths about equality and diversity prevail in the workplace. What equality and diversity means, its benefits, and the risk associated with discrimination are all areas for debate. Here are a few of the most commonly held misconceptions and how you can respond:  

“Equality and diversity is just political correctness”

FALSE - Equality and diversity is about more that trying not to offend, or making sure you say the right thing. It’s about fairness in terms of access to employment and services. It’s also about freedom from discrimination. Equality and diversity policies and initiatives help to put these widely held values into action.

A hospital trust introduced value based recruitment for Healthcare Assistants and Support Staff and reduced sickness absence by 2%, turnover by 7% and recruitment costs by up to 40%. 

“It’s only a problem for underrepresented groups”

FALSE - The Equality Act 2010 applies to all individuals, providers of services and employers. We live in a complex society made up of people from diverse backgrounds and with a range of needs and requirements. This means someone may be seen as advantaged in some areas and, at the same time, disadvantaged in others.

For example, about 77 per cent of the NHS workforce is female, but women are underrepresented in senior roles.  

“Equality and diversity is just about ticking boxes”

FALSE - While tick boxes are one of the ways of collecting data in NHS organisations, equality and diversity is about translating that data into information that can inform change. What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done- equality and diversity needs to be measured and monitored so that issues are identified and action is taken.

For example, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust used monitoring data to benchmark itself against the changing demographics of the population and against other organisations. It realised that it needed to find out more about disability in the trust to ensure disabled staff were appropriately supported and represented.  

“There is no evidence that it has an impact on patient care”

FALSE - People perform best when they can be themselves and embedding equality and diversity in everything the NHS does will improve conditions for all staff and, ultimately, their patients.

For example, an Aston Business School study found that where high numbers of staff from Black and Minority Ethnic background reported experiencing discrimination at work, this coincided with lover levels of patient satisfaction. Conversely, patient satisfaction was highest where there were fewer reported incidents of workplace discrimination. 

“Improving equality and diversity won’t save us any money”

FALSE - In fact, it is costly to the NHS not to pursue workforce diversity and improving diversity can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

For example, Employment Tribunal Service statistics for 2010/11 show that average payouts were £30,289 for age discrimination, £14,137 for disability discrimination and £13,911 for sex discrimination.

Evidence from the private sector in 2007 shows that among the top performing European companies, those with the highest level of gender diversity in top-level posts outperformed their sector in terms of investment returns.  

“It’s an issue for NHS leaders, frontline staff can’t change anything”

FALSE - A personal, fair and diverse NHS is one where everyone’s contribution matters and everyone counts. Leadership in this area is crucial at all levels of the NHS. Senior leadership is needed to make equality a core part of quality service delivery. Middle management is vital for putting this into practice, and all NHS staff should be able to identify little things they can do in their day-to-day roles to put patients first and ensure that everyone has equal opportunities and treatment.

For example, a Personal, Fair and Diverse champion at East Midlands Ambulance Service organised the first summit on religion, belief and fairness for staff and communities.

Visit our Personal, Fair and Diverse webpages for more information on this campaign and how to become a champion. 

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