How to write a diversity and inclusion policy
Amy Cowpe, Charlie’s Chief of Staff, on why a proactive approach towards diversity and inclusion is crucial for fostering a positive workplace culture and attracting diverse talent — and how it all starts with your diversity and inclusion policy.
Diversity and inclusion can be a sensitive subject. Over the years, I’ve learnt that small business founders and junior HR professionals are often scared of addressing it, for fear of making a mistake and alienating their employees or candidates.
But diversity, equality and inclusion is no longer a tick box exercise. In today’s competitive market, you’ve got to be proactive if you want to create a working culture that attracts and retains the best people.
As Chief of Staff at Charlie, I’ve led our diversity and inclusion efforts from the beginning. So if all of this sounds a bit familiar, then I understand where you’re at. And I’ve probably asked all of the same questions.
As a small business, diversity and inclusion is one of Charlie’s cornerstones. Our mission is to ‘Make Work Better’ and part of that is sharing our knowledge with other small and new businesses so they can benefit from what we’ve learned.
And when it comes to diversity and inclusion, your policy is just the beginning.
A good equality, diversity and inclusion policy won’t make an impact if you don’t translate it into initiatives that make a genuine difference.
To give you an idea of what I mean, these are some of the initiatives I’ve worked on since writing Charlie’s diversity and inclusion policy:
- Checking our hiring processes are as fair as possible
- Introducing better anti-harassment policies and grievance procedures
- Providing clearer performance and progression guidance
- Improving our family-friendly policies
- Making our language more inclusive across all areas of the business
- Keeping track of leavers’ demographics
In this blog, I’m going to talk generally about diversity and inclusion policies — what they are, how to write one, and what to include.
But I’m also going to share Charlie’s own diversity and inclusion policy with you, as a free template. Because I hope that it will help and inspire you to write yours.
What is a diversity and inclusion policy?
A diversity and inclusion policy, also known as a equality, diversity and inclusion policy or a diversity, equity and inclusion policy, sets out your company’s approach to promoting and maintaining diversity and inclusion.
Your diversity and inclusion policy should clearly communicate your values, and the steps you’ve taken, or are taking, to create and nurture a mixed and welcoming place to work.
The policy should also address workplace bullying and harassment, and what you’re proactively doing as a business to prevent direct and indirect discrimination.
Once created, your diversity and inclusion policy should be reviewed and updated every year.
What should a diversity and inclusion policy include?
A diversity and inclusion policy should:
- Set out your business commitment to building an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace.
- List the actions and initiatives required to nurture a positive and equitable working culture and state your ongoing commitment to assessment and improvement. (Note: you don’t ‘achieve’ diversity and inclusion, it’s something you are always striving for.)
- Outline what an employee needs to do if they experience or witness any unlawful discrimination.
Though every diversity and inclusion policy is unique, this framework is fairly universal and a good starting point:
- Mission (align your business mission with diversity and inclusion, the two should go hand-in-hand)
- Purpose of the policy (for example, you want to ensure equality, fairness and respect for everyone whether temporary, part-time or full-time, and you may want to reference the Equality Act 2010)
- Definitions of forms of discrimination
- What you (as the company) are committed to
- Where the policy is applied
In my experience, it makes sense to include an inclusive language policy with your diversity and inclusion policy, because how we speak informs how we act. See our diversity and inclusion policy above, for how we have done this at Charlie — you are welcome to take inspiration from it.
How to write a diversity and inclusion policy
I understand the pressure that comes with writing a diversity and inclusion policy, but breaking it down step by step really helps, trust me.
And when you think about it, a diversity and inclusion policy is just setting down in writing your ambitions for the business you want to be. I find if you think of it like that, rather than worrying about the mistakes you might make, it’s much easier to write.
These are the steps I followed to create our diversity and inclusion policy at Charlie:
- Mission comes first: this ties your business ambition with your diversity and inclusion ambitions
- Reasons why you need a diversity and inclusion policy: this is the policy’s purpose
- Different forms of discrimination: there are probably more than you think!
- What you’re committed to as a business: remember, your diversity and inclusion policy is just the first step — this is about what you’ll actually do
- Where the diversity and inclusion policy will be applied: effectively, across all areas of your business
- Think about your language: now is the best time to write your inclusive language policy, as the two go hand-in-hand.
Diversity and inclusion policy examples
Your diversity and inclusion policy will be as unique as your business, but here are a few examples of how you may wish to start yours:
- This policy outlines our commitments and what to do if you experience or witness any unlawful discrimination.
- All employees of [insert company name] have a responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect at all times.
- This policy sets out our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Diversity and inclusion policy template
There’s nothing quite like a real-life example to help you hit the ground running, so I’m giving you Charlie’s diversity and inclusion policy as a downloadable example.
This template is our very own diversity and inclusion policy in full, and it’s free for you to download, adapt and take inspiration from:
Our policy starts with our mission and aligns it with our commitment to diversity and inclusion. This means that our team regards diversity and inclusion as being intrinsic to Charlie and what we’ve set out to achieve as a business. In short, you can’t think of one without the other.
Aligning your mission makes your diversity and inclusion policy applicable to everything you do.
Our inclusive language guide
At Charlie, we believe that how we communicate is foundational for creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace.
So, we created an inclusive guide to encourage our team to be mindful of the impact their words can have on others and to communicate in ways that are considerate and respectful.
You can download our inclusive language guide here below for free:
Remember: a diversity and inclusion policy is just the start of your working commitment to diversity and inclusion. The important thing is what you do off the back of it.
How CharlieHR can help with your diversity and inclusion policy
But what happens if you’ve read through the diversity and inclusion policy template and are still unsure of what to do?
Well that’s where Charlie might also be able to help.
Through our mission to Make Work Better, Charlie supports small businesses in two ways: through our HR Advice Service and with our all-in-one HR software. And both could prove invaluable for writing your diversity and inclusion policy and translating it into different initiatives.
HR Advice is a bespoke support service created specifically to help small companies and startups. It can support your diversity and inclusion efforts by:
- Giving you access to a dedicated HR advisor who will help you write all of the policies your business needs — including your diversity and inclusion policy.
Your advisor is on hand whenever you need them via chat, phone or email, and they can even create a personalised company handbook containing all of your policies.
Once you’ve written your diversity and inclusion policy, with Charlie’s HR software you can store it alongside your other policies. With Charlie, it’s easy for you and your team to locate company policies whenever you need them. So:
- Your team is always empowered and informed
- It’s less faff for you whenever a policy needs reviewing or updating.
Plus, if you’re a HR Advice customer, you can use Charlie to report on how diverse a business you are.
So why not give Charlie a try, and see how it can help you?
Because when it comes to diversity and inclusion, your policy is just the beginning.