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).
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 www.equality.fi.
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
Equality and non-discrimination planning 19
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
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
Helsinki, 10th September 2009
Minister of Labour
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
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.