Guide to promoting equality and preventing

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Guide to promoting equality and preventing

discrimination in the workplace

This publication has been produced as part of the YES – Equality is Priority Project, supported by the European

Community programme for employment and social solidarity - PROGRESS (2007–2013).

The information contained in this publication reflects the authors’ view, and the European Commission is not liable

for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. Said information does not necessarily reflect the

position or opinion of the European Commission.
The YES – Equality is Priority Project is a cooperation project involving the public administration and authorities,

and bodies and organisations representing groups at risk of discrimination. This project is aimed at promoting

non-discrimination and equal opportunities. It is being implemented by the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice,

Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Defence

Forces/Defence Command Finland, the Sami Parliament and organisations and advisory committees representing

groups at risk of discrimination. More information is available at

Guide design and text editing: Diversa Consulting and the YES – Equality is Priority Project
Translation: Done Information Oy
Cartoons: Fabrizio Scarpati


1. Foreword 3

2. Diversity and equality in working life 4

Diversity as a competitive advantage 4

Genuine equality in working life 5

3. Equality and preventing discrimination in working life 7

Legal basis of equality and prevention of discrimination 7

What is discrimination and what is not? 8

What is multiple discrimination? 9

What is positive action? 9

4. Diversity management 11

5. Recognising and intervening in discrimination in the workplace 13

Challenges to equality in working life 13

How to recognise discrimination? 15

What should I do in cases of discrimination? 16

6. How to promote diversity in the workplace? 18

Equality and non-discrimination planning 19

Prohibited grounds for discrimination 21

Sources of advice and further information 23

Sources 26

1. Foreword

Diversity is part of everyday life in the present-day workplace. Some

aspects of diversity are outwardly visible, others not. We all have our

own life story and experiences, which have formed us. Understanding

and benefiting from a diverse employee and customer base is an

advantage both for employers and the workplace.

The core of managing and making good use of diversity lies in

harnessing it as a resource and general asset. This means actively

including the knowledge, perspectives and individual experiences

of all members of the workplace in activities throughout the


Equal treatment for all is guaranteed under the Finnish Constitution.

Effective diversity management and promoting equality can

help improve staff wellbeing at work. It can also help employees to

fulfil their competence potential. In this way, innovation, productivity

and employee commitment can be improved.

This guide provides information on the opportunities offered by

diversity. It also answers questions on equality and non-discrimination

in working life. The aim is to provide readers with information

on how work communities and business operations can

benefit from diversity, promote equality and prevent and root out


The guide provides information on the contents of equality legislation.

Various kinds of discrimination are described and concrete

advice is given on what to do when discrimination occurs. The guide

also emphasises best practices for promoting equality and diversity

in the workplace. A list of organisations which can present you with

such advice and further information is included at the end.

This guide is intended for everyone in the workplace: employers,

employees, shop stewards, occupational safety delegates and other

staff representatives. The information it contains is also useful for

people in charge of training in employers’ federations and employee

unions, people in charge of equality and gender equality, and multiculturalism

experts. In addition, the issues handled are relevant to

workforces in enterprises of all sizes as well as in the public and third


SAK – Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, the Finnish

Metalworkers’ Union, the Finnish Federation of Hard of Hearing

(FFHOH), the Finnish Veterinary Association, the Finnish Disability

Forum, the Kiljava Institute and the association of Finnish tourism

and restaurant services MaRa ry have contributed to the composition

of this guide. It was compiled as part of the YES – Equality is

Priority Project, implemented by the Ministry of Employment and

the Economy.

Helsinki, 10th September 2009

Anni Sinnemäki

Minister of Labour

2. Diversity and equality in working life

Diversity as a competitive advantage

Every enterprise and community forms part of society. For this reason,

changes in society have an impact on how organisations behave.

Such changes can provide unlimited new opportunities, as well as

presenting us with new challenges. At the moment, the greatest

changes affecting our society include technological development,

economic challenges, globalisation, the ageing of the population and

its increasing diversity.

Most small and medium-sized enterprises in Finland operate in

local or regional markets. But this does not mean that change does

not affect them. A more diverse society, customer base, market structure

and available workforce are having more and more influence on

the business opportunities of small and medium-sized enterprises too.

For instance, the retirement of the baby boomer generations, and the

need to meet future workforce needs by hiring a more diverse set of

employees, involves all companies, whether large or small.

Like society, every workplace is diverse in one way or another:

employees include men and women, transsexuals and intersexuals

and members of other gender minorities.

They can be of different ages, with different

beliefs, and can come from different

cultures or language groups. In addition,

they can be physically or mentally disabled

or free of disabilities. Their sexual

orientation can be anything from heterosexual,

homosexual, lesbian and bi-sexual

to something in between. Some kinds

of diversity are easy to notice from the

outside, others not. We all have our own

life stories and experiences, which have

moulded us in many ways.

Companies and organisations that are

aware of the diversity of both their customers

and staff, and which can benefit

from the opportunities involved, can gain major competitive advantages.

However, diversity cannot be turned into a business opportunity

by itself. Instead, systematic and long-term diversity management

is needed. The core of diversity management lies in benefiting

from diversity as a resource and common advantage. Indeed,

the information, perspectives and individual life experiences of each

member of the workplace need to be included in the activities of the

entire organisation.

Diversity is an organisational resource that helps in pairing the

right person with the right task. It increases an organisation’s productivity

by generating a creative atmosphere. A positive atmosphere

can be created and personal motivation improved by allowing everyone

to be themselves. If full benefit is taken from diversity, pluralism

and openness, a better motivated and more productive workplace

can be the result.

Companies and organisations benefit in many ways from diversity

strategies or programmes. By developing diversity management,

a company or organisation can expand recruitment opportunities.

Such strategies and programmes can help employers attract talented

individuals from different backgrounds to work for them. Above all,

they can keep such people in the workplace. Expert diversity management

can improve the social cohesion of employees and their commitment

to the values and activities of the workplace.

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