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COVID-19 must not delay diversity and inclusion

Paul Wolfe, Head of HR - Indeed

Over a third of workers (34%) believe that Covid-19 has delayed efforts to improve diversity, inclusion and belonging in their company. Workers who are disabled (51%), almost half from black or mixed-race backgrounds (45%) and over a third of lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents (39%) report workplace discrimination

 More than two fifths (43%) believe their organisation could still be doing more to improve, same percentage say their company has no diversity lead. The findings are part of a detailed new report* examined workplace diversity, inclusion and belonging during the coronavirus pandemic

More than a third of workers (34%) believe Covid-19 has delayed efforts to improve diversity, inclusion and belonging in their company, according to a new report from the global job site Indeed.

Time for Change found that more than two fifths (43%) believe their organisation could be doing more to improve in this area and that while over half (57%) believe their organisation was taking steps to improve diversity before the pandemic, one in ten (10%) now believe there has been a focal shift away from diversity since the pandemic began.

With COVID-19 seemingly exposing societal divides, minority groups believe they have been disproportionately impacted by restrictions that have been implemented in response to the pandemic.

Over a quarter of both black and mixed race (27%) and disabled workers (25%) believe that people from a BAME background or those with a disability have been more greatly impacted. On average, only 15% perceive this to be the case with 49% believing the impact has been the same for all.

A survey of more than 1,500 workers from a range of industries and business sizes* found nearly a fifth (18%) of respondents thought that the pandemic has also had a negative impact on job opportunities for minority candidates, rising to a third (31%) of those from black or mixed race backgrounds and a quarter (25%) of those with a disability.

Of those, over half (59%) believed that an increase in competition for available roles meant minority candidates were more likely to be overlooked in the application process. More than a quarter agreed that organisations are now less focused on ensuring their workforce is diverse, so are less likely to interview minority candidates.

In addition, in March 2020 the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission suspended the enforcement of the Gender Pay Gap Report due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This means that for this year no organisation is required to report data on its gender pay gaps, avoiding any subsequent court action. A third of workers (32%) believe this will have a negative impact on equal working opportunities between men and women in the UK.

Discrimination in the Workplace
Nearly three quarters (72%) rated their organisation as excellent or good in terms of their approach to diversity, inclusion and belonging, however the experience of minority groups does not tally with this optimistic view:


51% – those with a mental disability (reported workplace discrimination)

45% – black or mixed race and white background

39% – who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual

27% – national average

The research also found that whereas only 29% of workers on average think they need to hide any part of themselves, their personality or their identity from colleagues, this rises to almost half for black and mixed race black and white workers (47%).

The report is calling on businesses to redouble inclusion efforts after it was found over two in five workers (43%) said their company had no dedicated diversity lead and a third (33%) of disabled workers felt unable to take advantage of opportunities at work due to a lack of accessibility. Struggling to level the playing field going forward, more than a quarter (27%) believe their organisation does not have measures in place to address unconscious bias in recruitment.

Positive changes
While Covid-19 has clearly caused companies to reconsider their immediate priorities, the report has found that not all of the effects of the pandemic are negative. Producing a nuanced picture, over a third (34%) believe the move towards remote working will have a positive impact on employment opportunities, with this figure rising to 41% for disabled workers.

With more than one quarter of the workforce working remotely**, 36% of people said they feel more isolated since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for many remote working has been a liberating experience – with nearly one third of people (31%) saying remote working had made them feel more comfortable to be their true selves in front of their colleagues.

Indeed, remote working has improved accessibility for some, with 36% believing it makes job roles and organisations which previously felt inaccessible, more accessible.

Employers also performed better in terms of wellness and mental health, with almost a third (30%) noticing there has been an increased focus on staff wellbeing and mental health more generally.

What’s more, proactive steps to support and understand diversity in the workplace can improve team morale. Over a quarter of workers (28%) said their organisation had provided extra support to black employees following the recent Black Lives Matter activity this summer. Of those workers, a third (34%) said this made them feel prouder to work there.

Time for Change delves into the state of play of diversity, inclusion and belonging among the UK workforce. Alongside brand new data, it features interviews and advice from Emma Slade Edmondson, Strategic Creative Director and co-host of podcast Mixed Up which explores mixed heritage identities and race.

Paul Wolfe, head of HR at Indeed, said: “Events of 2020 have shone a spotlight on the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging and the need to remove barriers to create more equal workplaces and opportunities for all. While our research shows encouraging signs that employers are paying attention to these issues, the reality is that some have pulled up the handbrake on progression.

We know that people and companies thrive when employees feel they truly belong and to create that culture employers need to take a holistic approach. This involves identifying conscious and unconscious biases that exist in hiring processes as well as recognising the importance of educating hiring managers and leaders on the benefits of a diverse workforce.

 Thinking more about how to recruit great talent with a diversity of skills greatly increases the chances of creating a workplace that benefits individuals and all of society.”

LaFawn Davis, VP of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Indeed, said: “Employers are rethinking their attitudes and behaviours to make workplaces the best they can be and for that to happen people need to feel that they belong. That’s difficult during a global pandemic when millions more people are working remotely but there are steps leaders and managers can take to embrace and nurture diverse talent.

 Building that culture starts from the top and should focus on bringing a greater sense of community to the organisation. That involves creating plans that involve all and are reflective of the entire workforce and the barriers experienced by different populations. Human decency and understanding other individual’s circumstances also go a long way to truly making someone feel like they belong.

 While our research shows that in many cases this is already happening, the deficit between words and actions suggests there is still some way to go before all employees feel valued and understood.”


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