Leiden Law Blog

Dilemmas of Diversity Management

Posted on by Thyla Fontein in Private Law
Dilemmas of Diversity Management

Due to increasing migration, the entry of women in the workforce, the aging population and shifting patterns of work, the workforce has become more and more diverse in the last 50 years. Businesses face various dilemmas when it comes to managing a diverse workforce and offering work flexibility.

Diversity

Due to laws, guidelines and societal expectations, companies need to ensure workforce diversity, provide equal opportunities and avoid discrimination. Diversity among employees includes differences in gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and age. This poses both opportunities and challenges for businesses.

The benefits of equal employment laws include the existence of a larger number of people to recruit from and the ability to reach out to a diverse customer base. If customers are able to identify with the employees, and thereby the face of a company, they may be more inclined to become a loyal customer. Having employees with different views and backgrounds also allows innovation because there is a larger pool of ideas to work with.

Equal employment laws, although they contribute to respect for human rights, pose various challenges for companies. It may be hard to ensure that employees with core differences have sufficient mutual understanding and respect to be able to work and cooperate effectively in the workplace. Some cultures and perspectives may ultimately clash if individuals are not open-minded and fail to respect each other. Ensuring equal opportunities for older people and those with disabilities creates practical and financial obstacles such as the need to restructure workplaces to accommodate specific needs like installing elevators. In light of non-discrimination, the prohibition on asking medical history questions during interviews leads to financial risks in hiring individuals who may fall ill for extended periods of time and have the right to sickness benefits. Furthermore, gender quotas may confront a company with the need to take on a less qualified candidate in order to meet the quota - a company may be left with one female and one male candidate for a position in the financial department. Although the male candidate might have more relevant experience, the company may be obliged to take on the female candidate. Lastly, businesses also face the risk of expensive lawsuits if they do not abide by equal employment laws.

Work Flexibility

Due to the changing nature of family life, including the modern role of women and men in families, businesses need to be flexible and adapt to their employees in order to prevent high staff turnover. The traditional family structure, where the father works and mother stays at home, has declined enormously in number. More notably, same-sex relationships do not in any way fit in this structure either. Businesses are faced with the dilemma of accommodating the needs of employees with respect to their child and elderly care responsibilities. Companies who want to attract the best employees must consider whether they will provide their employees additional (financial) support and whether to allow flexible working schedules in order to help their employees meet those responsibilities. This enables reduced absences and improved job satisfaction, but it might make it difficult for those individuals to have a fair chance at making a career because they are compared to colleagues who appear to work more hours.

Conclusion

Companies encounter various dilemmas when attempting to effectively deal with diversity management and accommodating employee needs. Nevertheless if they are able to deal with this successfully, it can offer a major strategic advantage. Ultimately, they can avoid lawsuits and bad reputations, allow innovation and reach a diverse customer base, while at the same time contributing in a positive manner to equality and respect for human rights.

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