Diversity in the workplace is an increasingly important issue both for employers and for other stakeholders. Positive action can help to increase the representation of traditionally disadvantaged groups in the workplace, but employers must take care to ensure that such measures do not inadvertently lead to unlawful discrimination.
What is generally meant by diversity in the workplace in your jurisdiction? Which factors are the primary focus?
Research shows that – in accordance with global trends – Hungarian employers tend to attach great importance to fostering diversity in the workplace. Although some employers have yet to implement particular measures in this regard, few refuse to address the issue.
Research focusing on why employers find it important to foster diversity has shown that:
- the majority of employers (particularly those with an international background) consider workplace diversity to be part of their corporate culture;
- some employers wish to adapt the best practices used by employers operating in other EU member states;
- some employers wish to benefit from state subsidies linked to the employment of certain social groups; and
- a small proportion of employers believe that a diverse workplace can help their business.
In Hungary, the employment of workers of all age groups is a key focus area. This is supported by legislation, as the government wants to incentivise (eg, with tax refunds or allowances) the employment of entrants to the labour market, parents of infant children and the elderly (ie, employees of pre-retirement age and pensioners).
Another key focus area is the employment of workers with a reduced capacity to work, as well as low-skilled and disabled workers, which is also government subsidised.
The employment of foreign workers and workers representing certain minorities is another important element of a diverse workplace. Unfortunately, however, this is less common for smaller Hungarian employers (with a workforce of fewer than 500 employees), so this is an area for further development. What progress has been made to date in your jurisdiction to foster diversity in the workplace? Although a complex national strategy on this matter has yet to be implemented, progress has been made in the past decade to implement legal measures to foster diversity in the workplace.
General awareness of workplace diversity has gradually increased over the past decade. Research shows that employers now attach a greater importance to diversity than before. The number of employers which believe that a diverse workforce can contribute to the success of their business has also increased.
The regulatory regime has also developed. Although there are no direct legal measures fostering workplace diversity (eg, obligatory quotas), several indirect instruments have been introduced (eg, equal treatment rules and state subsidies).
The main legal measures supporting workplace diversity are:
- the prohibition of discrimination; and
- the fostering of underprivileged groups.
A specific government authority (the Equal Treatment Authority) has been established and vested with broad powers to combat all types of discrimination. One of the authority's key focus areas is the reduction of workplace discrimination.
In addition to the above legal measures, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) provides data and monitors the social status of discriminated and disadvantaged social groups. HAS has identified multiple groups which suffer from discrimination in the workplace or when changing workplaces. HAS's data is publicly available and employers can use it to establish action plans and anti-discrimination and workplace diversity enhancement measures.
What positive measures can employers adopt to foster diversity in the workplace without running the risk of positive discrimination claims?
Several human resource tools and work organisation methods are available to employers to foster diversity during the recruitment process and employment relationships.
From a legal perspective, measures adopted on the basis of a collective agreement or an internal policy that aim to mitigate the objectively existing disadvantages of a specific designated employee group do not violate the equal treatment principle. Such measures may be in force for a definite term and must be subject to occasional revision. Although positive discrimination claims are uncommon in Hungary, measures taken by employers must align with the above general requirements.
Employers can adopt concrete measures to hire people from certain underprivileged social groups. It is widespread practice to use certain quotas and favour such candidates during the recruitment process.
Employers that want a diverse workforce must usually undertake certain work organisation methods to foster the employment of workers from different backgrounds, such as:
- part-time or flexible work arrangements;
- job sharing; and
In addition to these methods, employers can establish internal equality plans to enhance workplace diversity.
Research shows that employers with a diverse workplace typically utilise one or more of the following human resources tools:
- the appointment of an officer who is responsible for equal treatment within divisions;
- specific training (eg, life-long learning);
- events aimed at increasing team cohesion (eg, sports days);
- mentoring and coaching; and
- teamwork monitoring.
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?
Providing appropriate training is crucial to developing and retaining a diverse workforce. Training regarding teamwork and cooperation, as well as conflict management, is of key importance when employing workers from different backgrounds.
Specific advisers can help to ensure an employer is utilising the best training methods. This typically involves:
- evaluating the employer's needs;
- running training sessions; and
- conducting follow-up surveys and interviews with participants.
Some training methods also include the subsequent examination of participants.
Employees can be instructed to participate in training sessions, which can –along with passing any relevant exams –be made part of their annual development plans and evaluation.
According to Hungarian data protection rules, only anonymous information and research results (ie, data which cannot be connected directly to an individual) can be shared without any legal consequences. Confidential employee information can be shared only with the concerned employee's explicit written consent.
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 differ in Hungary, as multinational enterprises can draw on available policies and best practices that can be adapted for their local subsidiaries. Local subsidiaries of multinational enterprises therefore have an important role, as they may serve as good examples for other enterprises.
Domestic enterprises usually lack appropriate models for internal guidelines and policies to promote workforce diversity. Therefore, their actions in this regard are often incidental and unplanned.
The fact that global enterprises usually base their models on the rules of other jurisdictions with different diversity laws rarely causes problems. As noted above, there are no statutory diversity laws in Hungary and Hungarian law is flexible regarding positive discrimination.
Conversely, there is an important difference between these enterprises regarding the type of diversity that they pursue:
- multinational enterprise policies aim to foster diversity in a more progressive sense (eg, by employing foreigners and workers with different sexual orientations); and
- local enterprises tend to limit workplace diversity to the employment of workers from all age groups or with a reduced capacity to work.
However, notably, domestic enterprises employ a higher proportion of workers with a reduced capacity than the local subsidiaries of multinational enterprises.
This article was edited by and first appeared on www.internationallawoffice.com.