Equality and diversity

Workforce diversity has lots going for it – it creates vibrant cultures, improved responsiveness to employee and customer needs, greater innovation and creativity, and helps organisations compete in an increasingly globalised (and thus diverse) marketplace.

But it is hard to achieve, too. It takes effort and it is easy to get caught by unconscious biases and taken-for-granted systems and processes that stifle rather than welcome diversity.

As a result, at a national level, disadvantage appears to be firmly embedded across the UK and wider, with some groups perennially struggling on all indicators.

IES has researched the factors associated with disadvantage across different groups and in different environments for 50 years, and has explored and evaluated the methods and mechanisms used to address inequalities in education and employment.

Find out about our specific work areas below.

Age and employment

Experiencing age-related disadvantage happens most at the start and end of people’s working lives. IES has an extensive track record in this area, including:

  • research on transitions from education into the labour market;
  • reasons for extended working lives;
  • age discrimination in employment;
  • the relationship between health, age and employment;
  • employers’ perspectives on age; and
  • diverse and changing patterns and experiences of retirement.

Contact: Stephen Bevan

Our work in this area

Disability and employment

For over 20 years, we have researched the complexity of disability-related employment issues, including:

Contact: Stephen Bevan

Our work in this area

Ethnicity and the labour market

IES was one of the first organisations to conduct detailed research into understanding different ethnic groups' experiences of work or the labour market.

This has included research on the attitudes and participation of particular ethnic groups in the labour market, evaluations of labour market and training programmes to assist ethnic minorities towards and into employment, and an exploration of the effectiveness of the legislative system designed to protect people from race discrimination at work.

Contact: Duncan Brown

Our work in this area

Flexible working

We have helped a wide range of employers adopt improved work flexibility to enable employees to find a better work-life balance. This has included designing flexible working schemes, costing options, measuring productivity outcomes, providing management and staff support, and transferring skills to in-house consultancy teams.

We have researched the impact of flexible working in sectors to identify the profile of flexible workers, the uptake and impact, and how balance is achieved. We continue to work in this area and if you feel that our expertise could help your organisation adopt improved work flexibility, please contact us.

Contact: Duncan Brown

Our work in this area

Gender and disadvantage

Although gender differences in the labour market have been reduced in recent years, there is still much to do, particularly in closing the gender pay gap and ensuring that women reach senior management positions.

We have considerable experience in researching the representation of women, patterns of working, opportunities for and barriers faced by women, and the outcomes for women in education but particularly in employment. We have explored industry sectors, helped specific companies and examined regional workforces, and looked at gender as part of multiple disadvantage.

Contact: Duncan Brown

Our work in this area

Social mobility

The themes of social equity and mobility cross cut many of our studies. Social equity encompasses equality of opportunity to pursue different educational pathways or routes to occupations, as well as diversity of uptake to understand whether there are barriers that need to be removed to provide equal chances. This continues into the experiences of people in learning and training. For example, whether pay rates or other terms and conditions vary for apprentices from different genders, ethnicities or disabilities. We also explore the intersections between these factors.

Social mobility is the opportunity to progress and advance in society despite social class. It is therefore crucial to understand the outcomes different people achieve from following education and training in order to identify barriers and hindrances that could be challenged or removed to allow more people to achieve satisfying lives.

Contact: Becci Newton

IES experts

Emma Pollard

Jim Hillage

Nigel Meager

Emma Pollard
Principal Research Fellow

Jim Hillage 
Director, Employment Policy Research

Nigel Meager
Principal Associate

Related projects

Increasing the Participation of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities in Employment
German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS)

Fourth Employer Work-Life Balance Employer Survey 2013
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Discrimination and access to employment for female workers with disabilities
European Parliament

Supporting Learners with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities to Access ESF Priority 2 Provision
Department for Business Innovation and Skills

Tackling Inequities in Representation of Particular Groups in Apprenticeship Programmes
Learning and Skills Council

Managing gender identity in the workplace
Acas