31 October 2018

Learnlight Research Reveals One in Four Employees Has Experienced Workplace Discrimination

workplace discrimination



Nearly one in four UK employees (23%) says they have experienced workplace discrimination in the past 12 months where they or a colleague were unfairly discriminated against in their workplace because of their gender, age, background, sexual orientation or preferences, culture or ethnicity.

New research commissioned by Learnlight reveals that 12 percent of employees have been victims of workplace discrimination themselves, and 14 percent have experienced it happening to someone they know at work within the past year.

According to the study, only half of UK employees (51%) are sure that their employer has a policy to promote Diversity & Inclusion (“D&I”) in the workplace. It reveals that even those businesses which have D&I policies are suffering from them not being adhered to.

One in three employees (30%) said their organization’s policy was ‘usually’ adhered to but that sometimes senior managers get around it and HR doesn’t prevent this from happening. While many senior managers recognize the importance of minimizing or even eradicating workplace discrimination the reality on the ground can be very different.

Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations
Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations

Another 9 percent thought their company’s policy was just a box-ticking exercise. In total, less than half (49%) felt that the policy was strictly adhered to.

Learnlight has designed a new blended Diversity and Inclusion training course to help companies build more diverse and inclusive workplaces in response to demand from the HR and Learning community, many of which are facing challenges in creating D&I policies that are truly effective.

Benjamin Joseph, CEO of Learnlight explains;

“Diversity and inclusion is a huge issue for HR teams to tackle. Businesses increasingly understand that diverse and inclusive organizations are not only doing the right thing but are also reducing their reputational risks and building a work environment that is more likely to result in greater profitability.”

“While the benefits of D&I are broadly accepted, certainly amongst HR teams, creating truly diverse and inclusive businesses requires a broad understanding of many factors including how to develop a D&I strategy, negotiate different legal frameworks, create an inclusive culture, overcome unconscious bias, develop a business case and measure progress effectively. We provide soft skills and language training to multinationals around the world and many of the HR teams we deal with say they have a long way to go before overcoming these challenges in practice.”

Overall, more than one in five UK employees (22%) says they aren’t certain their workplace is truly diverse, with 19 percent saying it definitely isn’t and 3 percent being unsure. The issue is more pronounced at senior management level, with four in ten (40%) respondents not convinced their workplace is diverse at this level.

One in four (25%) respondents aren’t certain that their workplace is inclusive, with 18 percent saying it definitely isn’t and 7 percent being unsure.

Further reading

Diversity impacts companies large and small

Employees in large multinational businesses were also more likely to have experienced workplace discrimination in the past 12 months, with 27 percent of employees in these businesses claiming to have done so, compared to 14 percent in small businesses.

However, while awareness of D&I policies is greater amongst employees of larger businesses, the feeling that policies are not wholly effective is prevalent in businesses of all sizes, with 28 percent of employees in multinationals claiming senior managers sometimes circumnavigated the policy and 8 percent that it was a box-ticking exercise, compared to 32 percent and 9 percent respectively in small businesses.

According to the study, only half of UK employees (51%) are sure that their employer has a policy to promote Diversity & Inclusion (“D&I”)

A recent McKinsey report revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability. For ethnic and cultural diversity, the equivalent gap was 33 percent.

Diversity Matters

Learnlight’s new digital course, Diversity Matters, is being offered free of charge to HR, L&D, and Global Mobility professionals.

The blended course is available as a generic introduction to Diversity & Inclusion for the whole workforce or a more in-depth look at the strategic issues for senior managers and leaders.

Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations
Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations

It is designed to help organizations understand how D&I issues impact their work, and how to develop strategies for building and managing diverse and inclusive organizations, covering topics including:

  • Understanding of D&I terminology, concepts, legal frameworks
  • The factors behind workplace discrimination
  • How to build diverse organizations, solve diversity challenges, draft a D&I strategy
  • How to create an inclusive culture, raise awareness of unconscious bias, develop strategies for fostering inclusion
  • The business and ethical case for D&I
  • How to measure D&I in organizations

To sign up to Learnlight’s new Diversity & Inclusion blended course, please click here.


Learnlight is an EdTech company that provides language and skills training to learners in more than 150 countries. The company has developed an award-winning learning platform to deliver blended virtual, face-to-face, and digital training programs to employees of regional and global businesses. Clients include blue-chip companies such as Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Siemens, Oxford University Press, SEAT, Ricoh, Orange, and Inditex. Learnlight employs 220+ staff and 1000+ trainers worldwide.

More information can be found at learnlight.com.

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