Equality fund launched to make finance sector workplaces more inclusive and diverse

Equality fund launched to make finance sector workplaces more inclusive and diverse

Richard Lochhead

A two-year equality fund has been launched to make Scottish workplaces, including those in the finance industry, more inclusive and diverse.

The Scottish Government-funded initiative, with £800,000 available in its first year, aims to address longstanding barriers in the labour market so that everyone – irrespective of gender, age, race, or disability - can fulfil their potential and improve Scotland’s economic performance as a result.

Applications for the 2022-2024 Workplace Equality Fund are now open, and for the first time will be administered by Advice Direct Scotland, the country’s national advice service.

Charities, third sector organisations, public sector organisations and private sector businesses can apply for up to £75,000 in each year of the fund to carry out activities that will help to improve diversity in the workplace.

The funding is used for projects focused on one or more priority groups from the following list: women; minority ethnic workers; disabled workers; older workers (those aged over 50); people who experience gender-based violence; workers who are experiencing social isolation and/or loneliness; workers experiencing symptoms of the menopause; and veterans and spouses of veterans.

Projects can take place within any sector, industry or geographic area provided that they demonstrate the impact on priority groups through addressing systemic inequalities in the workplace.

The Workplace Equality Fund was first launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2018.

Last year, funds offered immediate support during the pandemic to ensure that efforts to promote and embed workplace equality could continue so that equality groups were not further disadvantaged by the economic impact of Covid-19.

Organisations and businesses that wish to apply for funding should visit the website. Applications are open until April 11, 2022.

Richard Lochhead MSP, minister for just transition, employment and fair work, said: “Employment rates, pay gaps, occupational segregation, workplace discrimination and progression opportunities within the labour market vary significantly across Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is committed to inclusive economic growth and helping employers develop their workplace practices to address inequality is key to the Workplace Equality Fund.

“Promoting growth in employment opportunities and tackling inequality within the labour market is essential to the sustained, long-term prosperity of the Scottish economy. We encourage private, public and third sector organisations to apply for funding through the Workplace Equality Fund.”

Pamela Stewart, deputy chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, added: “We are proud to be working with the Scottish Government to deliver this important fund which will help businesses working in the finance industry.

“As an inclusive and progressive organisation with a diverse workforce, we understand how valuable this is. We are committed to supporting projects that aim to improve workplace practices and diversity in the workplace, which is good for individuals and also good for business.

“We encourage organisations across Scotland to apply for support from the Workplace Equality Fund so that more employers can reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers.”

Clare Alexander, head of business models and workplace innovation at Scottish Enterprise, commented: “Fair work principles lie at the heart of our approach to creating a more inclusive and equal economy across Scotland. Evidence shows that employers can benefit through productivity, employee retention and more by having a diverse, fairly rewarded and respected workforce.

“I’d encourage organisations to take the opportunity to apply for the Workplace Equality Fund and widen access to employment and progression. Having a more committed, better skilled and adaptable workforce who can spot challenges, solve problems and offer ideas for improvement creates real value. This is particularly important as we transition to a net zero economy and ensure that change is fair for the wellbeing of Scotland’s workforce.”

Previous recipients include the charity Age Scotland, which received funding for an Age Inclusive Matrix project, helping organisations to better support older workers.

Mike Douglas, Age Scotland’s director of social enterprises, said: “We helped find ways for employers to better support older workers who are carers, as well as creating health and well-being support tailored to their needs.

“While flexible working is becoming more common, many people still associate it with parents of young children. Offering flexible opportunities to all can benefit both employers and workers, improving work-life balance and retaining skills that would otherwise be lost.

“With around a third of Scottish workers now over 50, it makes sense to invest in them. Employers benefit from a healthier, more motivated workforce and ensure that valuable skills and experience aren’t lost.”

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