I’m quite lucky that in my work I don’t really need to explain the importance of what I do. Most businesses I speak to understand that diversity, equality, equity and inclusion are pretty important – even if only because of the legal requirement for employers to reflect them in their workplace policies.

Inevitably, though, I tend to work with people who recognise that there are gaps in their knowledge on the subject and are thirsty for information that will help them to understand how to best implement practices and policies that will have tangible benefit for all.

One of the questions I’m often asked is: what is the difference between equality and equity, and why are they important?

I saw a lovely explanation of what differentiates them, so can’t take the credit for it, but it went something like this:

Let’s say you run a football team and all the players need football boots. Equality is making sure every player has a pair of boots. Equity is ensuring every player has a pair of boots that fits them and allows them to play to their best level.

And at this point, I could leave this blog there and consider my work done. But of course, the question – and its answer – are a little more nuanced than that.

So we can probably agree that equality and equity are related but they are far from the same.

Equality emphasises the principle of equal opportunities and rights for all employees. Under an equality framework, the focus is on ensuring that everyone has access to the same resources, benefits, and opportunities, without discrimination or bias based on factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, or disability.

The aim of an equality policy, therefore, is to eliminate systemic barriers and create a level playing field where all employees have an equal chance to succeed.

Equity in the workplace recognises that not all individuals start from the same position or face the same barriers and acknowledges that people have different needs and circumstances.

There is therefore also an inherent understanding that treating everyone the same may not lead to true fairness – and this is why the distinction between the two is so important.

The law already recognises this under the disability protected characteristic – where employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that people with a disability can contribute at work without being impeded.

Ensuring your workplace equality and equity practices are integrated helps you to create an inclusive and diverse environment that values and respects all employees. In short, a bit like love and marriage, Laurel and Hardy,  or Ren and Stimpy – you can’t have one without the other (in theory!).

Here are a few reasons why they are so significant:

Fairness: Equality and equity promote fairness by challenging discriminatory practices and biases. They ensure that all employees have an equal opportunity to succeed based on their individual abilities and merits, rather than irrelevant factors.

Talent development and retention: Embracing equality and equity can attract and retain a diverse pool of talented individuals. When employees feel valued, supported, and empowered, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive.

Enhanced innovation and creativity: Inclusive workplaces that value diverse perspectives and experiences foster innovation and creativity. Different backgrounds and viewpoints contribute to a broader range of ideas, problem-solving approaches, and insights, which can lead to better decision-making and improved outcomes.

Positive organisational culture: Promoting equality and equity helps create a positive culture characterised by accountability, respect, and compassion. This fosters a sense of belonging and psychological safety among employees, leading to higher job satisfaction and overall well-being, – essential for effective collaboration.

Compliance and legal obligations: And of course, there is always the legal requirements of employers to consider. Complying with the Equality Act and other related legislation is not only ethically responsible but also mitigates the risk of legal consequences and reputational damage for organisations – and the inevitable financial consequences…

Achieving true equality can mean applying equity principles to address disadvantages and barriers to situations as they arise. By striving for both equality and equity, businesses can create inclusive environments that foster fairness, diversity, and equal opportunities for all employees.

And in the end, if you get it right you’ll see that hard work reflected in your bottom line.

If you’d like to know more about how to make your approach to equity and equality more effective, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.