What is generally meant by diversity in the workplace in your jurisdiction? Which factors are the primary focus?

Diversity in the workplace means recognising the differences between individual employees and acting accordingly. Employers should provide equal opportunities to employees and job applicants to avoid discrimination in the workplace. Legislation has been enacted to combat discrimination on grounds of gender, age, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Law (205 (I)/2002), as amended, protects men and women against direct or indirect discrimination regarding their access to employment, vocational training, promotion and suitable working conditions. 'Sexual discrimination' includes harassment (including sexual harassment) and the less-favourable treatment of women due to pregnancy, breastfeeding or pregnancy-related illness.

The aim of the Equal Treatment Law (58(I)/2004), as amended, is to combat all forms of discrimination at work with specific reference to:

  • age;
  • race;
  • religious and political beliefs;
  • ethnicity; and
  • sexual orientation.

Disability law

The Disability Law 2000 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. A 'disability' is defined as:

"any kind of impairment which causes permanent or undefined lasting physical, intellectual or mental restriction to the person and, taking into consideration his or her history and other personal details, substantially reduces or eliminates his or her ability to perform one or more activities or functions which are considered natural and substantial for the quality of life of people of the same age who experience no such impairment."

Maternity law and parental leave
Pregnant women are protected against discrimination by the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Law (205(I)2002), as amended, and the Maternity Law, which:

  • protects against their dismissal and changes to the terms of their employment contracts; and
  • safeguards their rights during maternity and parental leave.

What progress has been made to date in your jurisdiction to foster diversity in the workplace?

Employment legislation has helped to promote diversity in the workplace in Cyprus. Employees and prospective employees are now more aware of their rights regarding discrimination in the workplace, as more information regarding equality is available and employees are better equipped to demand their rights through the appropriate bodies.

The ombudsman's office is the official body empowered to investigate discrimination complaints. This is a free and easily accessible service; as a result, most complaints are filed with this authority. Legal actions can also be filed with the Employment Court, which has jurisdiction to hear discrimination cases. In terms of promoting equality in the workplace, the ombudsman's office, the Ministry of Labour and employers' associations and unions provide information for employers and employees through circulars, seminars and guides.

What positive measures can employers adopt to foster diversity in the workplace without running the risk of positive discrimination claims?

Employers can create a working environment in which team spirit is promoted and employees do not feel that they are being discriminated against. If employees feel that they are victims of discrimination, it will result in less productivity, demotivation and unhappiness in the workplace. In some cases, employees will be forced to leave their job, which will impact their employer.

In order to foster diversity, employers can adopt specific measures when posting job ads (eg, drafting an ad that does not exclude or favour a specific group of prospective employees). Employers should apply the same methods for internal promotions in order to provide equal opportunities and a fair chance to all employees.

Employers should also introduce an equality policy and implement an action plan to support the policy on an ongoing basis. Such policies should be continually updated and employees and managers should also be consulted. Further, employees should receive training regarding equality, diversity and preventing discrimination. A company's policies in this regard are key for the promotion of equality in the workplace and avoiding unlawful behaviour.

What training methods and key performance indicators can employers use to promote and assess diversity in the workplace? Can the resulting data be shared if it includes confidential employee information?

Training methods and key performance indicators that employers can use to assess diversity in the workplace include:

  • making employees aware of the Equal Treatment Law, Maternity Law and Disability Law;
  • considering equality and diversity in recruitment, training and promotion;
  • establishing a staff policy that informs employees of what is acceptable and expected from them as individuals and as part of the company's workforce; and
  • ensuring that all employees are well trained and understand their rights.

Key performance indicators regarding diversity should include:

  • improving the position of women in the workplace through the appointment of female executives from within and increasing the number of female managers;
  • fostering a management system that takes full advantage of each employee's skills;
  • recruiting more employees with protected characteristics;
  • fostering greater transparency and equality through a performance management system;
  • training staff to foster greater equality, diversity and inclusion in their work;
  • improving staff awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion and fostering greater staff involvement in staff networks, team discussions, trade union activity and other appropriate bodies;
  • embedding equality, diversity and inclusion into recruitment, training and promotion;
  • selecting and retaining staff based on skills and competency and not on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability, except as required by law;
  • conducting an annual assessment of the racial, ethnic and gender composition of staff to encourage greater diversity; and
  • developing a recruitment policy that encourages applications from under-represented groups.

What are the implications for global businesses working in multiple jurisdictions with different diversity laws? Do the approaches taken by domestic and multinational enterprises differ in your jurisdiction?

The approaches taken by domestic and multinational enterprises in Cyprus do not differ, as all enterprises must abide by domestic equality and discrimination laws and practices.

For further information on this topic please contact George Z Georgiou at George Z Georgiou & Associates LLC by telephone (+357 22 763 340) or email ([email protected]). The George Z Georgiou & Associates website can be accessed at www.gzg.com.cy.