Now that equal opportunity plans are a well-established reality in our legal system, diversity policies have arrived in force. Stricter regulations are slowly requiring companies to adopt specific measures to integrate diversity into their corporate cultures. Companies that are quick to do so with specific policies will have a competitive edge in the near future.Are we ready?
More and more companies now have effective equal opportunity plans based on a correct and complete diagnosis of the existing situation. We should highlight the term effective, because the most important thing is not to be able to justify the existence of a plan in order to avoid fines or take part in public tenders (which is also important), but to ensure that the plan produces results. This is because clients, investors and governments want RESULTS.
In this context, new winds of change are arriving that require companies to acknowledge and manage diversity in the broad sense, including all kinds of groups. Beyond the diversity of gender or equality between men and women, the hiring of people with different abilities and the integration of groups of people that are particularly vulnerable is not presently seen as diversity, unless it includes other parameters such as age (young people and senior employees), sexual orientation and gender identity, nationality, race, religion, etc.
As in the case of equal opportunity, the preparation of a diversity policy also requires sound knowledge of legal-labor regulations, an analysis of the company’s situation, its own culture and identity, strengths and weaknesses. In addition, for the policy to have an effect on a company’s results, it must be accompanied by the preparation and implementation of measures that enable the company to reach the targets it sets and systems that permit an assessment of the progress achieved.
Sustainability indexes are largely based on gender diversity and ,in Spain, the legal requirement of diversity management in the broad sense of the term is still at an early stage. In particular, Law 11/2018 of December 28, 2018 revising the Commercial Code, the revised Capital Enterprises Law passed by Royal Legislative Decree 1/2010 of July 2, 2010 and Audit Law 22/2015 of July 20, 2015 on non-financial information and diversity now oblige listed public limited companies and certain others that file consolidated annual financial statements to provide information in this regard and have introduced important requirements. Accordingly:
- The Capital Enterprises Law has been revised and now requires listed public limited companies to include “a description of their diversity policies in relation to the board of directors, management and special commissions created” in their annual corporate governance reports.
The Law also requires companies that have not applied a diversity policy to provide “a clear and reasoned explanation in this regard”.
- The Commercial Code has also been revised, with the aim of specifying the content of the non-financial information that certain companies filing consolidated accounts are require to provide in their consolidated management reports. As far as equal opportunity is concerned, these companies are required to detail the diversity management measures adopted and provide data on equality between men and women, salary gaps, etc.
The new regulations show the way that could be taken by the legal reforms that may take place in the near future. Bear in mind, for example, that the Change Agenda presented by the Government after the Cabinet Meeting on February 8, 2019 is seen as a “Government action guide” in line with the reforms included in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to promote, amongst other issues, “gender equality, respect and the integration of diversity”.
In short, considering the international scenario and both the new and foreseeable legal and market requirements, it will be advisable to work on and develop diversity and integration policies in the broad sense, given that companies that are able to integrate diversity into their corporate cultures will have a significant competitive edge in the near future.
Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department