If you are going to establish an effective Christian Workplace Group in the workplace, you will have to work with other staff network groups and operate within the organisation’s equality and diversity or inclusion framework.
It is therefore important from the outset that all group members understand the implications of this framework for both personal and group Christian witness.
The Transform Work UK team believes that the principles of equality and diversity should be supported by both managers and staff in all workplaces, whilst recognising that at times there may be points of tension which require discussion and exploration within the Christian Workplace Groups.
The Equality Act 2010
All equality, diversity and inclusion frameworks, principles, policies and procedures of any organisation are first and foremost governed by the Equality Act 2010.
The main principal aim of the Equality Act 2010 is to promote equal opportunities for flourishing for people of all backgrounds and eliminate unfair or prejudicial treatment. The Act offers protection to people with nine listed ‘protected characteristics’:
marriage and civil partnership
pregnancy and maternity
religion or belief
As Christians we wholeheartedly embrace fairness in the workplace, no matter what our colleagues’ backgrounds are. We stand against prejudice, unequal pay and white supremacy. Jesus loved people from every sector of society, including the outcasts everyone looked down on: the poor, the sick, the troubled and the oppressed (Luke 15:1-2, Luke 7:34).
Mark 2:16-17 says: When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus spent time with people from all sorts of backgrounds because all of them, like all of us, have turned aside from God and need God’s transforming work in our lives. Many companies have set up diversity and inclusion teams within their organisations to establish strategies and policies that promote the flourishing of staff who share one or more of the protected characteristics. The teams are normally responsible for resolving any day to day issues that staff may have with company policies, or to act as the first port of call for individuals experiencing what they believe to be discrimination.
Alongside the requirements of the Equality Act many companies are encouraging people to “bring the whole of themselves to work.” When individuals feel able to be honest and open about what is most important to them, including their values and beliefs, they are likely to feel respected, valued and accepted, and from a business perspective to be more engaged at work.
Rather than approaching the Equality Act and diversity and inclusion with cynicism, as Christians we can embrace this unparalleled opportunity to be open and honest about our faith and to demonstrate the love of Jesus to our colleagues with the blessing of the organisation’s board.
Equality and Diversity
Equality and Diversity are overlapping principles, but they are not the same.
There is a variety of definitions for equality, with slightly different interpretations. The Equality and Human Rights Commission definition of equality is as follows: “Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents, and believing that no one should have poorer life chances because of where, what or whom they were born, what they believe, or whether they have a disability. Equality recognises that historically, certain groups of people with particular characteristics e.g. race, disability, sex and sexuality, have experienced discrimination.”1
Equality in the workplace
Equality in the workplace is fundamentally about fairness, ensuring that all employees have equality of opportunity to maximise their talents and do not experience discrimination in any way. This does not mean that all people should be treated in the same way; rather it ensures that individual differences and needs do not place them in a disadvantageous position in any work-related situation.
Diversity in the workplace
Diversity in the workplace is concerned with recognising that all people are unique and that difference between employees is something to be celebrated. The ability of employees to express individual aspects of their personalities at work is likely to bring more resources to the workplace, produce greater job satisfaction for individuals, and promote a more productive and inclusive workplace environment. In many cases, this will result in members of the general public receiving improved services from the organisation.
No Diversity without Equality
No Diversity without Equality. An effective equalities structure within the organisation is a pre-requisite to having an effective diversity framework. It is important therefore that Christian Workplace Group members understand how their group will function within both frameworks. This will need some discussion as a group to ensure all members understand the importance of acting appropriately within the organisational framework.
1Equality and Human Rights Commission: Private and Public Sector Guidance – Understanding Equality. 2015
Inclusion in the Workplace
Some organisations use the term ‘inclusion’ in their diversity policies. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission defines an inclusive workplace as: “one where the human rights principles of fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy are promoted and are part of the organisation’s everyday goals and behaviour.”2
2Equality and Human Rights Commission Guidance – An Employees guide to Creating an inclusive workplace. 2010
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Heart of the Good News
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Heart of the Good News. In a patriarchal society, Jesus treated women with respect. He mixed with the poor, the marginalised, those considered to be outcasts, people with disabilities, those with dreaded skin diseases, mental health problems, possessed by evil spirits, of different nationalities and from different traditions, and those living by a different moral code. Jesus did not reject or seek to avoid any of these people. Jesus met all who came to him with love and respect no matter what they had done. He might not always have approved of their behaviour or some or their lifestyles, but his starting point was love and respect. Principles of equality and diversity are firmly rooted in the Kingdom of God.