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Diverse by Design: a workbook for adult social care

This Diverse by Design for adult social care workbook sets out 15 elements that we believe are fundamental in helping adult social care organisations to embed fair values, systems, and behaviours. It builds on the work and resources of the Diverse by Design Guide for council services, published by the Local Government Association (LGA) in 2021.


Diverse by Design for adult social care is a workbook for councils as employers that seek to improve equality, diversity, and inclusion measures within the workplace. It was coproduced with a group of adult social care employees based throughout England. The quotations you will read in blue text boxes are some of the anonymised views and perspectives of these people.

Whatever the size of your organisation, this workbook will help you to prioritise what change is important to you. It will help you go beyond compliance, and be clear about how equality, diversity, and inclusion will improve the organisation for you, your employees, and partners, and for people who draw on care and support.

We aspire for our workforce to reflect the people and communities that we support. Widening participation in the social care workforce supports this aspiration. This workbook aims to help you identify ways to improve equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in your organisation so that your workforce better reflects and better serves the communities you work with.

The nine protected characteristics

A person is protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

This workbook relates to all nine protected characteristics. Whilst these nine are legally protected, there are other groups who may face discrimination including people leaving care, people with caring responsibilities, those who are homeless, people with a criminal background, and people who live in areas with high levels of deprivation.

There are many paths to being a fairer and more inclusive employer. This workbook enables you to champion and implement change one step at a time, adopting a pace of change that fits your workplace and your priorities.

The Diverse by Design elements

This workbook sets out 15 elements to help you to positively influence a culture of equality and diversity in an adult social care organisation. It will support you to embed the practice of inclusion in your workplace. 

These elements can be considered in any order and at a pace to suit your organisation. Please be reassured that everyone has to start somewhere. Small steps can lead to big improvements in equality, diversity, and inclusion in the long term.

The 15 elements are:

  1. Gather data
  2. Redefine equality and fairness
  3. Appoint senior diversity champions
  4. Agree how to talk about equality and diversity
  5. Rethink recruitment processes
  6. Have role models
  7. Make equalities a business strategy
  8. Rethink your equalities training
  9. Create and engage staff networks
  10. Have transparent and fair reward and recognition schemes
  11. Develop inclusive leadership
  12. Engage managers and staff
  13. Check your policies for stereotypes
  14. Create a flexible working culture
  15. Create confident line managers

Getting started 

Establishing a baseline to capture the EDI strengths and areas for development for your organisation is a useful step at any time, either at the beginning or as part of a review of progress. We have a tool that will help you with this: 

  • The Diverse by Design for adult social care EDI self-assessment tool: Once you have familiarised yourself with the 15 elements, an effective first step could be to work through the self-assessment tool that is part of this workbook. This tool will support you to identify your strengths and your areas for development. This self-assessment tool measures where you are against the elements of Diverse by Design and, importantly, the extent to which you have engaged with the workforce so far. 

EDI self-assessment tool

1. Gather data

We want to celebrate the social care workforce and give them the acknowledgement and appreciation that they deserve. This includes combating inequalities, which is why we will be expanding the roll-out of the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard (SCWRES) so that local authorities will use data to create plans for ensuring staff from ethnic minority backgrounds are treated equally, feel included and valued, their health and wellbeing are prioritised, and they have access to culturally appropriate support."
People at the Heart of Care, Adult Social Care Reform White Paper, December 2021

Data enables you to evaluate whether all staff are treated fairly in your workplace. It allows you to identify if there are differences between groups and to look at trends over time. Data will inform discussions for you and your team and help you understand the reasons for differences between groups. Crucially, data analysis and insights help you to put informed plans in place to address any imbalances you find and promote equality. Ongoing monitoring of your organisation means you can see what has worked well in your interactions with staff, and what has not.

Before you begin, it is important that you are clear with what you are trying to achieve in being a fairer and more inclusive organisation. This will help to decide the data you need to collect to generate meaningful insight and drive action. 

You may wish to begin by analysing the composition of your organisation’s senior management team. You may then decide to consider the percentage of employees with:

  • a protected characteristic across pay bands compared with the percentage of employees in the rest of the workforce
  • a protected characteristic being appointed from shortlisting
  • a protected characteristic entering a formal disciplinary process or fitness to practice process
  • a protected characteristic accessing funded non-mandatory continuing professional development
  • a protected characteristic experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from service users, relatives, or the public in the last 12 months
  • a protected characteristic leaving the organisation during the last year.

Data can be collected through national data sources and more local data collection routes. These include:

In addition to national and local data sets, you can gather data through:

  • questionnaires and surveys
  • one to one conversation, interviews, and meetings
  • focus groups
  • staff networks
  • organisational workforce data sets.

It is important to share any insights from the data with your staff. Transparency is critical in building an open and trusting culture. Sharing data can help you and your team identify and agree your equality challenges and can help decision-makers understand how policies and decisions impact different employees. This can help conversations with your staff on what needs to change, and to engage them in making change happen.

Creating cultural change in an organisation is not easy and takes time. Working with staff to identify what good EDI looks like in your organisation will help to inform plans to make meaningful change that everyone can buy into.

Spotlight on...gathering data: In the development of a local equality plan, Wokingham Borough Council reviewed key data from national and local data sets and engaged with the local community and workforce. Insight gained informed three priorities for the equality plan, including a priority to ‘build a diverse and engaged workforce, where everyone is respected.’ (Equality and diversity - Wokingham Borough Council)

Practical activities to support your progress on data gathering

Consider using LG Inform to support you with intelligence gathering. For example, you can access a report to support your preparations for adult social care assurance. This report draws together the key metrics that councils would find useful in evidencing their assurance self-assessment. Also, Skills for Care has a resource that provides ;information about the adult social care sector and workforce in your region. It shows the latest information available from the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS). To help you understand what the data tells you about your workplace, you could:

  • consider the degree to which you collect data to describe the communities you serve. Are there gaps with this? 
  • investigate the adult social care workforce data you currently hold. To what degree do your workforce and community datasets reflect each other? 
  • depending on your assessment of the above, choose to consider one to three long, medium, and short-term actions you could put in place to make sure these datasets can reflect each other as best as possible.

2. Redefine equality and fairness

Despite the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, which aimed to legally protect people from discrimination in the workplace, many workforce surveys still identify a lack of equality, diversity, and inclusion in accessing opportunities through recruitment, career development, and retention of staff.

Considering the difference between equality and equity

"Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources of opportunities. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome."

Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference? Online Public Health

Some adult social care employees may have experienced disadvantage in their personal or working lives that mean they are not starting from the same place as others.

Equity refers to the fair provision of resources to individuals, to give them what they need to be successful. Equity focuses on equality of outcomes and promotes success by levelling the playing field.

To be more equitable, adult social care organisations may choose to evaluate the different ways that employees interact with the organisation. This would support an organisation to identify their specific needs in achieving equitable outcomes by looking at differences such as ethnicity, nationality, age, and gender. Time could also be taken to understand each person’s strengths and consider how their diversity contributes positively to the organisation.

Spotlight on...West Midlands employers report: ‘A review of all council people policies and processes to ensure that policies are not only fair and equitable but are modern and are driving the changes employers need. The outcomes need to be monitored and if they are not positively contributing to creating a diverse and inclusive organisation, they should be modernised.’ (West Midlands Employers Report - Spotlight on inclusion)

Related resources on equality and fairness

Practical activities to support your progress on equality and fairness

Communication with employees will be an important part of change. Working with your team, you could plan an internal communications campaign to help staff and managers to:

  • consider the distinction between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ and what this may mean for your organisation
  • decide if you want to have fairness and inclusion as a regular item on your team meeting agendas.
  • generate discussion. You could share the image below with colleagues in your team. You could ask people to consider the image showing ‘equity’ and ask for examples of where equitable practice happens in your team. In turn, this could give insight into ways you could improve equitable practice. These ideas will inform your planning and give you a good opportunity for staff involvement.

An image depicting inequality, equity, equality and justice
This is a four part image. We will move anti-clockwise around it.
Image one shows inequality. Two people are standing underneath an apple tree. The tree leans towards the person on the left, and their side of the tree has lots of apples. The apples fall easily on the left side so the person on the left has easy access to the apples. The person on the right does not. Image 2 shows equality. The tree looks the same as in image one but now both people have the same size ladder to reach the tree. The person on the right still can't quite get to the apples. Image three shows justice. Both people still have their ladders but now there is a structure built around the tree to stop it from leaning. Both people are now able to pick the apples. Image four shows equity. The person on the right now has a larger ladder than the one on the left so can freely pick apples.

3. Appoint senior diversity champions

Senior equality and diversity champions take on a role of demonstrating positive behaviours to colleagues. They help to raise awareness of the organisation’s equality and diversity policies, ensuring that the values are embedded into the organisation’s vision and strategic planning. The appointment of a senior champion can demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to fairness and inclusion. These roles should always be voluntary as they will inevitably be incorporated into existing responsibilities. 

Senior equality and diversity champions bring leadership, advocacy, and capacity to the role. They can do this by: 

  • building a culture of allyship. Allyship is when someone who is not a member of a marginalised group wants to support and take action to help others in that group
  • proactively engaging on issues of diversity and inclusion with the workforce
  • working with colleagues in the organisation and with partners on equality action plans, reporting back on progress to the leadership team
  • ensuring equality and diversity issues are included as an agenda item at team meetings and leadership meetings 
  • ensuring that senior personnel demonstrate the inclusion of equality issues when making decisions
  • making a clear commitment to ensure equality, diversity, and inclusion values are embedded into the recruitment processes and appointments of senior officers in the organisation
  • being a high-profile credible voice to staff and other stakeholders on the commitment to, and progress on, equality issues for the organisation
  • inspiring and supporting diversity champions at all levels in the organisation
  • providing executive sponsorship for equality and diversity plans
  • being accountable for reporting on the organisation’s progress. 

Shifting the practices and culture of an organisation needs broad support at senior levels. This requires concerted and sustained action to ensure that the fundamental principles of equality, diversity and inclusion underpin all decisions and interactions throughout the organisation. 

Perspectives from the adult social care workforce highlight that if people do not see ‘people who look like me’ in more senior roles, there is a belief those roles are not for them. 

Spotlight on... diversity champions: Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has actively encouraged staff to take on an equality and diversity champion role by setting out clearly what the requirements are and what the champion does. Managers are asked to encourage and support staff to undertake the role and a calendar of events and celebrations has been created to support champions and all staff. (Dorset Healthcare: Equality and Diversity Champion leaflet)

"I am big fan of allyship. The positive messages around EDI need to be conveyed from positions of power and through lived experience. Allyship at any level will support and encourage EDI but the allyship from senior level leaders and managers helps to grow an inclusive organisational culture." 
Operations director and Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member

4. Agree how to talk about equality and diversity

Some people are uncomfortable talking about equality, diversity, and inclusion. People can sometimes believe matters related to colleagues’ experiences or differences are too personal or too emotional. Sometimes, people fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong language, and this can mean they avoid these conversations. For example, there isn’t yet a consensus regarding the term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). For the purposes of this publication, we have chosen to use the phrase ‘ethnically diverse communities.’ This is because many of the colleagues who have collaborated with us prefer this to the term ‘BAME.’

Talking about equality and diversity and hearing the voice of lived experience is important. Workplaces that encourage understanding and respect and celebrate diversity help create more inclusive environments. While these discussions have the potential to stir strong emotions, if managed respectfully and sensitively, discussions about our differences will increase understanding and help encourage people to connect. The overall aim of inclusivity is to allow all employees to bring their whole self to work. This means we support people to avoid self-censoring where they might be mindful of how others perceive them.

Creating an open and supportive environment

There is a need to create ways for people to have respectful conversations, to be able to make well-intentioned but unfortunate mistakes, and be able to learn from these.

A good place to start is to acknowledge that the conversations about the issues are not easy. We all know that language evolves and that language in equality develops too, so it is about helping everyone to be aware of that. The important thing is to have the conversations, genuinely exploring the issues that matter to the people we serve, to our employees, and to our organisations and partners.

In having these conversations, it is important not to rely on minority groups to educate others about inequality and discrimination. Instead, involve all staff and, as an organisation, decide what equality and fairness looks, sounds, and feels like in your workplace.

There are lots of different ways to show employees respect for their cultures, traditions, beliefs, and values and to create opportunities for people to discuss and increase understanding of them. For example, joining in celebrations or awareness raising activities of communities and groups.

To avoid tokenism and foster a respectful culture, it is important to engage with the workforce to understand whether they think diversity should be celebrated and how they would like to do that.

There are charities and organisations that can help employers to celebrate employee diversity and raise awareness of cultures and lifestyles, for example, Age UK and Working Families.

Spotlight on … celebrating communities: Working with the Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership, Bradford District Council set out to increase opportunities for people to celebrate and communicate across communities. Area committees were involved throughout, with discussions held at meetings, and members were keen to support the idea for the Big Lunch, where people and families from a range of communities got together to enjoy a meal. (The Big Lunch Bradford, inclusion through food)

Practical activity to support your progress on how to talk about equality and diversity

Inspire discussion and raise awareness of the richness of diversity by learning more about events that celebrate diversity and inclusion. The membership organisation Inclusive Employers have created an interactive diversity calendar showing inclusion events and awareness throughout the year.

If you have a staff network, you could ask members to familiarise themselves with this resource and support them to raise awareness of a variety of these celebration days.

Related resources on how to talk about equality and diversity

5. Rethink recruitment processes

COVID-19, Brexit and the rising cost of living have had a significant impact on an already challenged social care labour market. As employers recover and reform, they are faced with staff vacancy rates of 8.2 per cent, higher than pre-pandemic levels, and staff turnover of 34 per cent. In a competitive marketplace, low pay rates and some perceptions of social care roles means that social care is often viewed as the poor relative in terms of job opportunities and employers struggle to recruit.

The impact of the current challenges is not equally felt by the population or workforce. The pandemic shone a light on the need to enhance social justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion. While it is positive that almost a quarter of the social care workforce (23.8 per cent) are from ethnically diverse communities, a one per cent increase from 2019/20, these colleagues tell us that they can face discrimination, racism, and lack of development. This can be seen in the fact that diversity is not always evident in all levels of the workforce. 

It is also worth noting that many people who identify as LGBTQ plus do not disclose aspect of their identity, or may not apply for roles due to fear of discrimination.

Many of the groups most impacted by the current challenges are those who were already disadvantaged in the labour market. Carers, and people with disabilities, as well as many others, continue to find themselves facing barriers in employer recruitment practices. We aspire for our workforce to reflect the people that we support, so employers need do all they can to widen participation in the social care workforce.

Inclusive recruitment aims to break down barriers in recruitment practices and drive more action from organisations to reach out to untapped talent. It helps us to challenge our unconscious bias and recruit the best and most diverse candidates.

Top tips for inclusive recruitment


Spotlight on... inclusive recruitment : In an article hosted by Care Appointments Online, Skills for Care share learning on creating an open recruitment policy to ensure it attracts and assesses the talents of people from different backgrounds, including marginalised and socially excluded groups. (Ensuring equality and diversity in social care recruitment and progression)

Related resources on rethinking recruitment processes

6. Have role models

Good role models inspire us, they fuel ambition and break stereotypes. They can promote the visibility of underrepresented individuals in your organisation, enabling you to celebrate people who are not normally celebrated and help to increase understanding of difference. Studies show that role models encourage employees to make different choices about how they engage and progress through an organisation, working on the concept of ‘if I can see it, I probably can be it.’

Effective role models do not always have to be senior people in the organisation. In fact, studies suggest that if the person is perceived to be too successful then the aspiration is perceived to be unattainable. The best role models are those who have realistic, relatable, and attainable traits that are meaningful to staff.

"I did my training in childcare initially, then I moved on and got a job as a care assistant. I just loved working with elderly people. It was through that I got the opportunity to improve things because I could see things, coordinating things is my gift. I had to step up and look after a team and before long they had me round the whole county troubleshooting in other teams.”
Care assistant and Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member

Other social care role models

Nadra Ahmed OBE has been Chair of the National Care Association since 2001. She has been involved in and advocating for social care for over 35 years. Until 2005 she was the Registered Manager for two private care homes for older people.

Balwinder Kaur has 30 years’ experience working in adult social care, most recently as an interim DASS in Surrey. Bal qualified as a community pharmacist in India before settling in England in 1988. Bal qualified as a Social Worker and completed a master’s degree. During her career Bal has championed and led the way on equity, diversity, and inclusion. She is a mentor supporting people facing discrimination to have the belief to succeed in their careers. She also speaks out about discrimination in the workplace, advocating for fairness.

Jim Poyser is a Senior Manager for MCA and DOLS for Surrey County Council and has been open about his challenges with mental health over the past twenty years including a period of hospitalisation. He joined the Time to Change campaign to open conversations about mental health. Jim says that the kindness, support and flexibility of his manager and colleagues has made a significant difference to him. He continues to support others and by sharing his experience and supports opening up the taboo of mental health in the workplace.

7. Make equalities a business strategy

"To reap the benefits of a diverse workforce it is vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential. Whist the Equality Act strengthens and consolidates previous anti-discriminatory legislation, setting minimum standards about workplace discrimination, an effective inclusion and diversity strategy goes beyond legal compliance and seeks to add value to an organisation, contributing to employee wellbeing and engagement."
Chartered Institute of Personnel Development: Equality Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace fact sheets.

The notion that diversity can improve an organisation was pioneered by management theorist Meredith Belbin. His ground-breaking studies of collaboration in the workplace sparked the realisation that the most effective teams tend to be those that combine different kinds of people.

Diversity is now a talking point in all walks of business and in organisations of all sizes. While gender still dominates many debates, issues such as race, age, disability, and less visible differences such as hidden disabilities, a person’s background or beliefs are now considered. 

The business case for diversity has been made. Sustainable success can come when senior managers engage with the workforce in the development of an organisational approach that sets out a clear and unambiguous goal to embed diversity and inclusion, translating this into action and developing a way in which everyone can take part. Monitoring progress will help the organisation demonstrate achievement, turn theory into practice and make positive EDI action happen.

By making this fundamental shift and commitment to sustainable change, organisations will ensure that equality is embedded into decisions at every level. It may be said that anything short of this is simply an initiative or a short-term goal that will cost money but not deliver long term change and improvement. 

Spotlight on … strategic equality planning: Social Care Wales provide national leadership and expertise in social care and early years. The strategic equality plan demonstrates Social Care Wales’s commitment to becoming an organisation that actively seeks to improve the lives of people with protected characteristics by tackling discrimination, promoting equality and diversity, and creating a more inclusive society.
(Social Care Wales - Strategic equality plan)

Related resource on making equalities a business strategy

8. Rethink your equalities training

"While diversity training is often well received by participants and can have short-term results, it doesn’t usually show a sustained impact on behaviour and emotional prejudice, and alone is not sufficient to create a diverse and inclusive organisation." (Diversity and Inclusion Report, Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD))

Traditional, rules-based training on the Equality Act has not always helped to create more understanding and inclusion, but instead left many managers feeling less confident, worrying that they might do or say the wrong thing. The CIPD Diversity and Inclusion Report found that diversity training is more effective if it develops people’s interpersonal skills. It suggests that training interventions are better integrated with other diversity-related initiatives and not as isolated activities. This supports the development of a cohesive organisational strategy that raises understanding of difference and challenges discrimination.

Equalities training cannot create the conditions to support an inclusive adult social care workplace by itself. Instead, the power of the training lies in helping to increase the awareness of equality and diversity issues in the organisation as part of a bigger programme of change to support minority groups to join, stay, succeed, and rise through the ranks of the organisation. A programme of change may include initiatives such as targeting different audiences in recruitment campaigns or making a range of flexible working patterns available for all staff.

Equalities training programmes can be used to invite people to safely share how they have observed or experienced inequality and bias and empower them to be part of the design of the solution. Training programmes should help staff to develop the critical-thinking skills necessary to consider and challenge services, processes, systems, codes of conduct, events, communications, and seek opportunities to redesign these for increased equality and inclusion, and reduced bias.

A key component to the success of a training programme such as this is the organisation’s commitment to anti-discriminatory practices and a dedicated senior lead for its implementation.

"At the age of 16, I received a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa which is a genetic condition affecting the eyes. E-learning is not accessible. When new systems come out it is always a struggle for me. What has helped me to feel most included is having the appropriate tools; a reliable laptop, software, training, and support with systems from individuals who have the knowledge of my disability."
Administration assistant in a locality team, Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member

Related resources on rethinking your equalities training

9. Create and engage staff networks

Staff networks within adult social care organisations have great potential. They can engage people in diversity and inclusion strategies and change the culture of an organisation. Supporting and engaging with staff networks has many positive outcomes, both for staff and organisations. They can be a way to build empathy, provide support to colleagues, influence policy, increase employee engagement, and generate both motivation and innovation.

Setting up and running a network takes time and effort from both people and the organisations that want to support them. A common challenge for networks is the workload involved for the volunteer chairs and committee members, who are often juggling their day job as well as their role in the network. Individual organisations may wish to consider ways to support staff who volunteer for staff networks.

Networks are most effective when their aims align with their organisation’s objectives, and when they are open and transparent. A crucial factor for the success of networks is senior leadership buy-in. This means having a senior manager working with the network, understanding, and sponsoring the work, and giving a voice at the top table for issues and ideas that are important to all. This helps to break down barriers that the networks may meet as they work towards their objectives.

It is important for networks to be as inclusive as possible. This can be achieved by being open to everyone in the organisation, even if employees don't feel personally affected by the networks’ concerns at that time. Involving more people can increase awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion issues across the organisation. However, there are occasions where a safe space is needed to discuss sensitive matters, so some networks opt to have closed membership to allow for privacy and confidentiality.

"On joining my current employer, I attended the staff LGBTQ+ network meeting. There was a presentation on some local data from the census on LGBTQ+ residents and I got to meet a colleague from finance, business intelligence, organisational development, and the leader of the council, all of whom I’ve then gone on to work with in the coming weeks. For me it has created a real sense of family within a family and made me feel positive about being out as a visible gay leader in adult social care."
Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member

Spotlight on … staff networks 

Westminster City Council sees their employee networks as change agents, striving to embed diversity and inclusion across the organisation. The networks provide an arena for workforce voices to be heard.

It has six staff networks:

  • The Able Network, a group of staff who have a wide range of disabilities or long-term conditions who raise awareness of disability as a normal part of people’s lives.
  • The Global Majority Network, members of the workforce who understand the issues affecting people from ethnically diverse communities.
  • The Family Loop Network, celebrating all types of families and raising awareness that balancing family and work life can be a challenge.
  • The Rainbow Network, an intersectional group that offers an open and friendly LGBTQ plus space for all members of staff who identify as such.
  • The Multi-faith Network, staff who to come together to highlight religious celebrations they would like the council to recognise and celebrate.
  • The Women’s Network, a group of people who believe that all genders are equal, a forum for staff to inspire and support each other to create a better workplace for all.

Practical activity to support you to create and engage staff networks

Business in the Community has a helpful resource on setting up staff networks. Consider how you can use the tips on the activities for networks in their early stages to set up networks within your adult social care team.

10. Have transparent and fair reward and recognition schemes

Fairness should be an integral part of the way we value and reward people, and the effort and skill people bring. Reward and recognition schemes come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have an underlying requirement to be equitable. Perceived fairness of employee recognition and reward is often at the root of why employees leave their jobs. In the current climate it is more important than ever to minimise this as a barrier to retention.

Showing that transparent appraisal and remuneration systems are in place is a positive step towards demonstrating fairness in your organisation. This will primarily come from transparency with pay and reward processes and from being open about policies and criteria for decision-making. This means employees are clear about what is involved, and that managers understand that their decisions need to be objective, and evidence based.


The building blocks of pay transparency and reducing pay inequality are:

  • having a job framework appropriate to the organisation
  • developing explicit remuneration levels attached to this framework
  • applying the renumeration levels consistently
  • making clear links to personal or career development, and opportunities for progression in the organisation.

Although originally developed to deal with equal pay, job evaluation schemes also help to reduce judgements related to biases or stereotypes across all protected characteristics.

An element of discretion in reward systems can undermine the value of diverse types of work or staff. However, occasionally, discretion may be necessary and appropriate so introducing a clear framework on how discretion may be applied can help to ensure equitable decisions are made across the organisation.

A technique to analyse pay gap differentials is important. Traditionally this was developed to look at the gender pay gap, but the same approach is increasingly being used to help organisations to look at their ethnicity or disability pay gap.

It is common for organisations to have qualifying criteria to be able to access different benefits, for example, length of service or staff grade. It is important to review these regularly to ensure that access to benefits is transparent and proportionate and does not inadvertently affect or exclude certain staff groups more than others.


Appraisals and performance management processes are intended to clearly describe what is to be achieved and how, with an underlying aim of improvement and added value for the organisation through the support and development of the workforce. Done well appraisal can have a significant effect on employee retention. The success of appraisal systems and processes is how fair and effective they are – or are perceived to be.

Regular 1:1 meetings with direct reports

Formal appraisals are likely to happen once or twice per year, but equality and inclusion is a constant consideration. Regular scheduled 1:1s support the employee to feel meaningfully engaged and fully supported in their role.

At their most optimal, regular 1:1s can help build trust and improve employees’ experiences, motivation, and engagement. Regular 1:1s contribute towards an employee feeling connected to the organisation both emotionally and functionally.

Practical activities to support your progress

Consider your current 1:1, appraisal, and performance management paperwork processes. Is there anything your organisation could do to remove any unintended biases? To achieve this, you could:

  • review the language used in the framework and guidance given to managers
  • ensure your framework supports conversations and judgements on specific and clear evaluation criteria.
  • engage your employee network groups to test the appraisal system and scope of diversity objectives. For example, you could consult with staff with English as an additional language and neurodiverse staff
  • review job roles to redress any negative weighting linked to certain roles and ensure top performance ratings are possible across all job roles
  • ask several people to evaluate individuals, for example by using 360-degree feedback models. This encourages a broader perspective on performance
  • look at different models of what success in a job looks like
  • appoint an individual or small team of people to be trained to review performance evaluations across the organisation to check for bias and look for consistency across departments
  • introduce more regular reviews and feedback instead of relying on an annual process.

Related resources on having transparent and fair reward and recognition schemes

11. Develop inclusive leadership

"We all want to feel valued, supported and enabled to do our best work. Sometimes we have cultures and micro-cultures in our organisations that do not fully support that. High performing organisations and systems embed compassionate and inclusive leadership that drives improvement in their overall performance, meaning better outcomes for people, better population health, and better value for money."
Compassionate and Inclusive Leadership, the NHS Leadership Academy.

An organisation’s culture – ‘the way we do things here’ – shapes the behaviour of everyone in the organisation. Culture directly affects what staff do and how they do it. Inclusive leaders actively create an environment in which all members of the team feel empowered to contribute and feel safe to be themselves. They establish and support a culture that values (rather than merely accepts) different approaches. They challenge ‘the way we do things here.’ Inclusive leaders involve people in difficult and sensitive discussions on equality and fairness and how things could be done differently.

Inclusive leaders embody an approach that appreciates diversity; they invite and welcome everyone’s individual contribution and encourage full engagement with the processes of decision-making. They will actively delegate power to wherever expertise, capability, and motivation sit within organisations. They will pay close attention to the people they lead, understand the situations they face, respond empathetically, and take thoughtful and appropriate action to resolve issues. They will ask hard questions, seek feedback, and create discussions to build better relationships.

Organisations must promote and support their managers to be leaders who role-model the values and behaviours of inclusive leadership. As a start this can be developed by demonstrating four simple, but powerful, actions and behaviours:

  1. Reflect – support managers with ways to look at their own frame of reference and consider how their background affects how they behave at work.
  2. Slow down - speed and spontaneity are rarely inclusive, they encourage leaders to resort to embedded habits. Organisations can support managers to take time to build new, more inclusive habits with a wider range of perspectives and ideas to draw on.
  3. Ask - help your managers to feel confident asking questions: How do you pronounce your name? Is there anything more you would like to discuss? Give them the tools to find ways to create safe spaces for discussion to happen and for positive communication and understanding to increase.
  4. Share - find managers who can share a personal struggle so that other employees can see and understand that it is okay to talk about experiences and this will not make them appear weak.

Spotlight on ... stepping up: In recognising that there was a lack of diversity at senior leadership levels across the public and private sectors in Bristol, leaders were on a mission to create a culture of transformational change to enable a workplace where diversity could flourish. The Stepping Up Programme was launched, which is a diversity leadership talent pipeline for disabled people, ethnically diverse communities and women in Bristol and the South-West region. External evaluation of the programme has evidenced a positive impact across several outcomes. (Stepping Up Programme - Bristol City Council)

Spotlight on… inclusive leadership: London Borough of Hackney’s inclusive leadership approach seeks to develop a culture to create positive change. Managers are encouraged to build diverse networks, create team cohesion, and invest time in developing staff. Thirty-five inclusion champions were recruited and trained initially to deliver inclusive leadership training to senior managers, and many continue to work with directors to embed diversity. Cultural competency training is being rolled out to ensure that managers are more confident in engaging with diverse staff and communities. As a result, senior management is becoming more reflective of Hackney's diversity with a number of candidates from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds appointed to senior roles. (Inclusive leadership - London Borough of Hackney)

12. Engage managers and staff

Regardless of your commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, your ability to make changes in your organisation to achieve that goal will be limited if you do not have the buy-in of your people.

People can have strong opinions on equality, diversity, and inclusion, and often have different levels of knowledge, experience and understanding. The actions the organisation takes can deeply affect people’s lives, so they may be anxious about changes you are planning, even if these are well intentioned and effectively communicated. People will have a range of reactions and opinions, arising from lived experiences, fear of change, or even general cynicism about organisational initiatives.

However, there are some key steps organisations can take to engage people in building a fairer and more inclusive place:

  • ask, and listen to, people. Your organisation’s equalities data is an effective way to start a discussion, then actively seek their feedback and ideas
  • offer transparency and accountability. Demonstrate a genuine commitment, model ‘what good looks like’ and report back on the organisation’s progress on the goals agreed
  • share information. Visibility and messaging are the keys to building trust and achieving true culture change. Aim to share information in an accessible way and use multiple platforms to ensure universal exposure
  • provide focused support for people in the middle. The success of any strategy will depend on the support of advocates, intermediaries, and middle managers, who shape the way that policies and strategies are interpreted and implemented ;They may need additional time and resources to ensure that diversity and inclusion become a core part of operations and management
  • respect the right to choose. Do not assume that people from under-represented minorities want to champion and drive diversity and inclusion. Respect the right to choose and let staff be involved in their own way. Make changes with people, not to them

13. Check your policies for stereotypes

Your policies and processes are important tools to ensure that individuals feel valued, safe, and supported in their interactions with the organisation, but they can have unintended consequences.

Even employers who work hard to create fair and inclusive workplaces can inadvertently fall into the trap of building stereotypes into their employment policies and practices.

Policy development can fall victim to group think, where people who develop policies have similar characteristics or experiences – or simply have been doing the same thing for a long time. This can lead to decision-making that may have unintended consequences for other groups.

We also know that a policy will not always affect distinct groups equally. Achieving more equitable and fairer outcomes will sometimes require specific steps or conditions to address existing disadvantage, meet unique needs or support diversity.

The social care sector has traditionally been depicted with some stereotypes, including that most of our care workforce is white, female, and over 40, with limited formal qualifications. We aspire to reflect the population we serve, yet at present we sometimes do not. Checking policies for stereotypes helps leaders and employers to understand why this is the case and consider how recruitment policies and strategies may unintentionally reinforce a stereotype. It is helpful to consult with people affected by recruitment policy, for example by speaking to staff networks or job seekers.

Many public sector organisations use equality impact assessments (EIAs) to review their policies and procedures. An EIA is an evidence-based approach designed to help organisations evaluate their policies, practices, and decision-making processes to make sure they are fair and do not present barriers to participation or disadvantage any protected groups.

People writing and approving policies could:

  • Check assumptions. Most stereotypes are not supported by statistical evidence.
  • We all need to be aware of our own unconscious biases because these can lead to the wrong assumptions being made. You can ask a colleague to help you test your assumptions.
  • Avoid generalisation. A stereotype can be true in many cases and still have counterexamples. For example, just because someone is older does not mean that they have grandchildren.
  • Review policies with representatives from your target audience. Keep in mind that just because someone belongs to a certain group does not mean that they know everything about that group. Co-production of policies with more than one person from a protected group is the ideal.

"The policy on bereavement was prescriptive on which family members were covered by the policy. It didn’t have any reference to other significant people in a person’s life that, for example, might be more appropriate for gay families."
Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member

Spotlight on … Equality Impact Assessments (EqIAs): Walsall Council requires that equality impact assessments (EqIAs) be undertaken for decisions that change or create a new policy, procedure or service affecting residents and decisions that bring about internal organisational changes and impact on staff. Previous EqIAs showed the council that there were sometimes gaps in the way that proposals were consulted on. Similarly, the grid analysing the effects of the proposals on people with each of the nine protected characteristics lacked in-depth data that would enable the council to do appropriate risk analysis. The council decided to provide better guidance for each of the nine protected characteristics and developed an ABCD risk analysis system, with A being equivalent to ‘no change required’ to D meaning ‘stop and rethink the proposal.’ (How Walsall Council improved its equality impact assessment processes)

Related resource on checking your policies for stereotypes

14. Create a flexible working culture

Flexible working supports the creation of a diverse and inclusive culture and workplace and influences measures to improve equality. It can help parents return to work, potentially reduce the gender pay gap, support people with health conditions to stay at work, and support carers to balance their work and caring responsibilities.

For many roles, holding on to traditional working practices no longer accurately reflects the reality of how people want – or need - to live and work today and does not help with balancing the complexities of modern life.

One of the barriers to providing flexible working is a lack of understanding of what it is and who can have it. While there may be issues to overcome in implementing flexible working for some social care roles, experience demonstrates that solutions are best co-developed with employees. Employers can work with employees to determine what flexibility means to them and offer genuine attempts to provide working practices that can better accommodate employees’ work and wider lives.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) suggest these steps:

  • Flexibility at the point of hiring: signal at recruitment whether you are happy to consider applications on a flexible basis and ensure that there are solid business reasons where you cannot.
  • Staff engagement: review flexible working practices by encouraging open communication and consultation with staff over the type of flexibility that would be of most benefit, how this would work in practice and balance this against business needs.
  • Effective line management of flexible workers: training and development to ensure that line managers have the skills and confidence to manage flexible teams and support and monitor their performance and outcomes.
  • Role-model flexible working: encourage managers to work flexibly themselves. Managers who work flexibly are more likely to support flexible working within their own team and to understand the benefits and challenges of flexible working.
  • Effective implementation: make flexible working available to all staff, regardless of age or gender. Meanwhile, ensure that technology-enabled flexible working does not create an imbalance in the boundaries between employees’ work and personal life.
  • Policies: review your flexible working policies, and offer flexibility around religious or cultural holidays, (a choice of when time is taken – for a broad range of culturally significant days instead of traditional public holidays such as Easter). Talk about the important role staff networks have in supporting diversity in your organisation.

Research shows that boosting the supply of flexible jobs is key to expanding the pool of potential employees as well as challenging age discrimination. Research by the Centre for Ageing Better showed that the lack of flexible working was one of the most common reasons people left work before state pension age because they were unable to balance work with caring responsibilities, menopause, and health conditions.

Flexibility is essential in respecting rituals and beliefs within diverse cultures around celebrations of religious festivals and with respect to bereavement policies.

Spotlight on … Timewise: Leading by example to improve the local flexible working labour market, and with high rates of maternal worklessness in their borough, Camden Council knew it was a priority to increase the supply of quality part time and flexible jobs and that they as a major local employer should lead the way (Camden Council and Timewise). As part of a revaluation of their working practices, Westminster City Council decided to remodel their City Hall base. Their aim was to make it a better working space for their own staff. From a practical point of view, this required them to reduce their desk-to-person ratio, by encouraging more employees to work flexibly. The team at Westminster quickly realised that they needed to tackle their workplace culture if flexible working was to be successful. (Westminster Council and Timewise)

Related resources

15. Create confident line managers

Line managers have a vital role in advocating for fairness and in helping to create an inclusive working environment. They provide day-to-day leadership and empathy and can look for solutions to remove barriers to participation for people in their teams. Their behaviours are key to building a culture in which everyone is respected and can access opportunities to reach their potential.

Inclusive managers will reflect on their leadership style and working practices to ensure that they are aware of their teams’ needs. They will be approachable and able to initiate open, honest, and sensitive conversations with staff, and will work hard to have avoid preconceptions about the abilities of different members of staff associated with protected characteristics.

Reverse mentoring has a key role to play in supporting the development of confident managers where they can better understand workplace challenges experienced by their colleagues. This is where someone is mentored to explore experiences and develop their knowledge by someone more junior or at peer level. This is different to traditional mentoring from a more senior member of staff.

Crucially, inclusive managers will be widely recognised as role models and champions of inclusion and able to challenge inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues, including recognising and tackling bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

Managers need to be reassured that they don’t need to be employment law experts. Employers need to ensure that there are easy ways for managers to access advice on managing more complex issues arising with individuals and teams.

Managers should also be encouraged and supported to be confident in openly approaching issues that may relate to personal characteristics of their staff. Hedging around difficult conversations can often cause more discomfort for those involved. Send a clear message to managers – and to all staff - that people may unintentionally ‘get it wrong’ when talking about difficult subjects, but the organisation supports the conversations and will develop ways or tools for managers and staff to use and learn and ‘get it right’ in the future.

One way to help all levels of the organisation to be more inclusive is to develop interventions that help everyone to increase their understanding of different peoples’ experiences in the workplace. For example, the disability charity Scope has found that two-thirds of people say they feel awkward when they meet people with a disability. People are cautious about saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing. Consider inviting individuals or charities with knowledge or experience of different protected characteristics to speak to managers about issues that groups or individuals may face in the workplace.

"I changed the rules around internal progression opportunities to ensure that ethnically diverse staff in supporting roles had an equal chance of applying for the OT qualification training scheme. Five years passed and I had a very diverse and intersectional team, a better reflection of the communities that we were serving. Our team looked very different to the other teams within the department.”
Assistant director and occupational therapy specialist. Diverse by Design for adult social care community of practice member.

Spotlight on … reverse mentoring: During 2022 the North West ADASS Executive asked the Programme Office to explore regional work on equalities, diversity, and inclusion. The North West’s Future Workforce Board recognised that the adult social care workforce and the communities they serve have different experience within their careers, and of accessing care and support. At the 2022 North West ADASS Annual Conference, many DASS’s pledged to start Reverse Mentoring Schemes in their Local Authorities. Reverse mentoring was identified as having the potential to positively impact the culture of the workplace and experiences of ethnically diverse adult social care staff. In collaboration with Manchester City Council, the North West ADASS EDI Network designed a guide for Directors and Senior Managers with tools and resources to provide a starting point in this process. (Reverse Mentoring Guide, North-West ADASS)

Related resources on creating confident line managers