Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against any employee or potential employee under the following areas:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Religious background
While it’s a good thing the above areas are protected by law, workplaces are run by humans, and all humans have their personal prejudices and biases, whether these prejudices and biases are conscious or unconscious.
This means not all discrimination in the workplace is covered by the Equality Act. An individual can find their social class, educational level and intelligence unfairly judged by their appearance and/or the way they speak. For example, tattoos, dress sense, hair style or colour, piercings, accent or the area in which someone lives can all skew a recruiter’s view.
To a certain extent, remote working allows people to express themselves more freely than if they worked somewhere with a strict dress-code. After all, it’d be a pretty harsh regime if a company without a casual dress policy expected their remote workers to dress smartly at home, as well as in the office.
Remote working won’t turn the workplace into a prejudice-free utopia, but it has opened the workplace up to more people than before. This article will take a look at three groups of people for whom remote working can open up new opportunities.
Remote working and people with disabilities
New buildings, by law, must be accessible for people with limited mobility, hearing or vision. That’s great, but no matter how many lifts, ramps or disabled toilets a building has, if someone doesn’t drive or it’s impossible to get there by public transport, it doesn’t make that workplace anymore accessible to them.
We also need to remember not all disabilities are visible. Mental health conditions such as ADHD, anxiety or depression are all disabilities that may prevent people actively seeking work outside the home.
Even if someone with a disability can get to the office, they may have needs that aren’t catered for there. Working remotely allows disabled people to work from their own homes, which they will have tailored to their needs with an office on the ground floor or a height adjustable desk, for example.
Location bias and remote working
Location may not be the first thing that springs to mind when the subject of discrimination arises. But most desirable jobs are in expensive cities, not out in the suburbs or in rural areas. This results in location bias, as not everyone wants to or can afford to live in expensive cities.
There are various reasons why someone wouldn’t want to relocate to pursue their dream job - perhaps they have family they want to stay near or perhaps they don’t want to swap their big country house for a small city apartment.
It’s not just the people who live in these areas that miss out - employers miss out too as they are restricted to only employing people who live near enough to commute to their offices.
With remote working, not only can the employee live and work wherever they want, but the employer can tap into an entire world of talent. This enhances their reputation as an equal opportunities employer as they automatically create a more diverse workplace containing different cultures, ethnicities and nationalities.
Remote working for parents
When maternity leave finishes, many women go back to work. Others find themselves in a situation where they’d love to go back to work but it’s not possible because of the cost of childcare. It’s a Catch-22 situation - they need a job to pay for childcare but their job doesn’t pay enough for them to pay for childcare.
It’s not always down to money though. Some new parents would like to go back to work but they feel the hours they spend commuting would be better spent raising their family. Remote working solves the commuting dilemma and flexible working allows new parents to juggle childcare commitments around their working hours.
These are just some of the ways remote working opens up opportunities for people who may previously have felt marginalised. Remote working won’t completely obliterate all prejudices and biases but it does go some way towards it.