Protection against discrimination and promotion of diversity in the workplace

2022

State of implementation and practices in companies,
public administrations and third sector organisations

- Fact sheet on the research project -

Attitudes towards the AGG and towards diversity measures

The AGG’s intention of contributing to an improved protection against discrimination is consistently welcomed. The binding character of the AGG’s legal framework and the guidance provided by its clear requirements are appreciated, in particular, by major administrations and companies. Large companies and administrations frequently draw up strategies to reduce or avoid discrimination and to foster staff diversity. In administrations, these strategies can build on pre-existing structures and processes that emerged from previous experience with equality and employee representation legislation.

Smaller companies rather tend to perceive the hurdles and obstacles associated with the implementation of anti-discrimination and diversity measures, such as the fear of increased bureaucracy or a lack of resources. Some companies classify obligations for employers arising from the AGG as inappropriate restrictions of their ability to make their own entrepreneurial choices.

Awareness and implementation of the AGG

It became clear that administrations tend to have better knowledge of the AGG than companies and some of the third-sector organisations. However, a distinction must be drawn between the large and small companies surveyed. While, just like the administrations, all large companies are well-informed about the AGG, more than half of the small companies do not have any knowledge about the Act.

The situation is similar with regard to the obligations for employers included in the AGG. Here, too, the decisive factor is not the type of organisation but rather its size. While large companies have incorporated these obligations into their strategic approaches and recruitment processes and consider their implementation as a genuine part of modern leadership, many SMEs, most of which are owner-managed, are barely able to implement the obligations on their own due to limited capacities.

For reasons of scarce resources, particularly those measures that are publicly visible and do not bind human resources are being implemented, such as neutral phrasing of job adverts with regard to characteristics protected under the AGG. Setting up complaints boards and complaints management structures, however, requires additional staff, which an overwhelming majority of SMEs is not able or not willing to deploy.

The administrations surveyed are, overall, quite compliant with the obligations for employers, such as neutral phrasing of job adverts with regard to characteristics protected under the AGG, obligations to provide information and trainings to prevent and protect against discrimination. However, only some have set up complaints boards, and they show a low degree of commitment when it comes to taking affirmative action that goes beyond the measures known before the AGG came into force. Where such measures are in place, they refer to the equality of women and men as well as persons with disabilities.

Implementation of diversity management

All companies, administrations and non-profit organisations surveyed take diversity measures – partly without classifying them as such and not based on preventive or strategic considerations. Especially SMEs and micro companies usually do not have long-term strategies concerning topics such as anti-discrimination and staff diversity. They rather tend to react specifically to concrete incidents or current issues arising within their companies, such as skilled worker shortage or demographic changes.

In administrations and large companies, measures to promote non-discriminatory behaviour and workforce diversity have been institutionalised. Among others, they have appointed equal opportunities, diversity and integration officers. In small companies and organisations, this is often not the case.

Relevance of individual dimensions of the AGG and/or of diversity

All employers surveyed consider, above all, equal opportunities for women and men and measures for staff with disabilities as the most important approaches when it comes to ensuring diversity. Due to an increasing demand for skilled workers and demographic changes, the topics young people and/or attracting young professionals and age (young people/seniors) have become priority issues for administrations and companies. In major, global-level companies, particularly due to the recruitment of professionals abroad, the international background of staff members is a key issue. Administrations rather aim at increasing the number of employees with a migrant background. Other categories under the AGG and/or diversity dimensions, such as belief system and religion or sexual identity receive significantly less attention.