Sara’s Blog: Covid-19 and equality & diversity

As businesses emerge from lockdown there is an expectation that there will be a growth in redundancies and businesses will have to change some working practices. It is extremely important that equality and diversity is considered in any decision making

This is for two reasons. Firstly, that diversity is good for brand loyalty, generates greater commitment and businesses that are more diverse are innovative and resilient. Secondly, this is still the law and as such, there needs to be a focus on equality in decisions taken. Breaches resulting in tribunals and fines can cause massive reputational damage at a time when businesses are already vulnerable.

The Home Office have a good information resource around equality and diversity, with several guidance documents on their website.

Businesses and organisations must make sure that their decision making is non-discriminatory and that they have the right information about the protected characteristics for their teams. The decisions being made relate to furloughing staff, changing working conditions and hours as well as making roles redundant.

The key element, as with all staffing issues, is to communicate with employees, involving them in the decision making and listening to their suggestions.

Businesses may have to make reasonable workplace adjustments which could now include providing equipment for staff with protected characteristics working from home. This could mean providing them with another place of work. If this is not possible then they may need to be put on paid disability leave or furloughed. However, after lockdown there may still need to be adjustments made if the working environment has changed.

Women who are pregnant or on maternity leave already have protections. Risk assessments must be undertaken for them returning to work. They cannot be made redundant, and if the risks cannot be mitigated, they will receive full pay.

Other areas to consider are insurance cover for those with protected characteristics. If they are medically vulnerable will the employer be liable? This is currently under investigation by the Equality & Diversity unit in the Home Office, as there are several issues with insurers.

Those most affected by Covid 19 are people living in poverty, in low pay but high value jobs such as health, care and other essential services, and are from black or minority ethnic (BAME) groups – as many people in these communities are in the low pay, multiple jobs bracket.

As they are most at risk, there is a chance that perceived racism could rise in those employing or making people redundant. Such discrimination in recruitment can only be detrimental to the growth of innovative and diverse businesses and could stall economic recovery.

If you would like to discuss any issues around equality and diversity please contact us via

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

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