Diversity in the Workplace

Conferences

Many believe that companies with a diverse workforce have better chances of coping with the challenges of the rapidly changing business environment. This article aims to examine the legal background to the topic, the progress made in the legislation so far and the HR tools available to employers to foster diversity in the workplace and handle a diverse workforce.

Research shows that, in line with the global trends, Hungarian employers attach great importance to fostering diversity in the workplace. Although some employers have yet to implement particular measures in this regard, few refuse to address the issue. 

Concept of diversity – areas of focus 

But what exactly is meant by a diverse workforce? Given that it is hard to grab the essence of this concept, it is difficult to adopt legal regulations that will inspire companies to employ a diverse workforce.

Key focus areas of the legislation in terms of promoting workforce diversity are the employment of workers of all age groups, workers with a reduced capacity to work, low skilled and disabled workers. The employment of some of these groups, for example those of particular age groups (entrants to the labor market, parents of infant children and the elderly) is subsidized and employees falling within some of these groups enjoy labor law protection (e.g. protection from dismissal, etc.)

The employment of foreign workers and workers representing certain minorities could also contribute to a diverse workplace, but the incentives in these areas are less strong.

Progressing legal regulations 

Though a complex national strategy on the matter has yet to be implemented, progress has been made to implement legal measures to foster diversity in the workplace. Undoubtedly, general awareness of workplace diversity has gradually increased over the past decade. Research shows that employers now attach a greater importance to diversity than before.

The regulatory regime has also developed. Although no direct legal measures fostering workplace diversity (e.g. obligatory quotas) exist, several indirect instruments have been introduced. The main legal measures supporting workplace diversity are (i) the prohibition of discrimination; and (ii) fostering the employment of underprivileged groups.

The Equal Treatment Authority is vested with broad powers to combat all types of discrimination, with one of the authority’s key focus areas being the reduction of workplace discrimination.

Measures and HR tools available to foster workforce diversity 

Apart from the legal regime and incentives, several HR tools and work organization methods are available to employers to foster diversity.

From a legal perspective, measures adopted on the basis of a collective agreement or an internal policy that aim to mitigate the objectively existing disadvantages of specific employee groups (positive discrimination) do not violate the equal treatment principle. Such measures may be in force for a definite term and must be subject to occasional revision. Even though positive discrimination claims are uncommon in Hungary, measures taken by employers must be in line with the above general requirements.

Employers can adopt measures to hire people from certain underprivileged social groups. It is customary to use certain quotas and favor such candidates during the recruitment process.

Employers aiming to have a diverse workforce do usually have to undertake certain work organizational methods to foster the employment of workers from different backgrounds, such as: part-time or flexible work arrangements, job sharing and teleworking.

In addition to these methods, employers can establish internal equality plans to enhance workplace diversity. Employers with a diverse workforce typically make use of one or more of the following HR tools:

  • appointment of an officer responsible for equal treatment;
  • specific training;
  • events aimed at increasing team cohesion (e.g. sports days);
  • mentoring and coaching; and
  • teamwork monitoring.

Providing appropriate training is crucial to developing and retaining a diverse workforce. Training on teamwork, cooperation and conflict management, is of key importance when employing workers from different backgrounds.

Specific advisors can help employers to use the best training methods, which sometimes also include the subsequent examination of participants. Employees can be instructed to participate in training sessions, which can be made part of their annual development plans and evaluation.

Conclusion, outlook 

In summary, significant progress has been made to foster workplace diversity, but there is still a lot to do. In the current environment, where employers often struggle to find a suitable workforce, it could be a reasonable option to turn towards workers at the periphery of the labor market who – due to their special situation – have difficulties in finding a job.

The fact that Hungarian law is flexible regarding positive discrimination could also help this cause and ultimately contribute to companies having a more diverse workforce.

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