Diversity management in France : What exactly are we talking about?

The French fashion industry has been engaged for several years in strategies to promote diversity, under the control of the Anglo-Saxon press such as #The New York Times and the social networks.

If the question of diversity management is particularly sensitive in the industries of the « visible », it concerns more generally every company, whatever its economic sector and its visibility.

What is diversity management?

This word diversity is virtually absent from the French Labour Code. It has its origins in European work, policies and texts.

The European Commission, for example, published in 2003 the results of research to identify the business arguments for diversity, including corporate reputation, human capital and the absence of costs related to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The theme of diversity will progressively take the form of a managerial tool to support and complement the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination which are two pillars of the European social model. It should be noted that, in Europe in general and in France in particular, the issues of equal treatment and non-discrimination are the subject of numerous legal provisions contained in the Labour Code and the Criminal Code.

For the European Social Fund in France, diversity is a term that designates all strategies aimed not only at combating discrimination, but also at making the differences between employees a performance lever for the company.

So, pratically, what should French companies do?

The National Interprofessional Agreement on Diversity in the Workplace concluded between the social partners on 12 October 2006 and extended to all French companies on 22 February 2008 (ANI) asks companies to commit to social, cultural and ethnic diversity in the workplace.

The ANI aims to :

– Raise awareness of these issues by inviting them to create communication and training tools to promote diversity (ANI, art. 2);

– Implement actions in the following areas:

  • Heads of companies and management teams must commit to diversity (communication, allocation of resources, equal opportunities correspondent etc.) (ANI, art. 3)
  • Raising awareness and combating stereotypes (ANI, art. 4)
  • Training and mobilisation of hierarchical lines (ANI, art. 5)
  • Recruitment with systems free of all forms of discrimination (ANI, art. 6)
  • Career development (ANI, art. 7)

– Review their internal rules to ensure that they do not contain provisions that run counter to the guiding principles of the ANI

– Include in the information provided to the CSE on the employment situation, elements that allow for an assessment of diversity (ANI, Art. 10).

Several instruments can be used in diversity strategies, including :

– The #Diversity Charter created in 2004: a text of commitments offered for signature by any French employer who wishes to voluntarily act in favour of diversity and the fight against discrimination;

– The #Diversity Label created in 2008 by the government, in conjunction with the social partners and HR experts, which makes it possible, in compliance with a set of specifications, to take stock of the company’s diversity, to establish a diversity policy, to set up internal communication, awareness-raising and training initiatives, to take diversity into account in the organisation’s activities (recruitment, evaluation, etc.) as well as to evaluate and set out the areas for improvement in the diversity policy in place.

In the framework of a diversity policy, can statistics be put in place to measure it?

The French Constitutional Council has forbidden the use of ethnic-racial references, which is contrary to Article 1 of the Constitution, which states that France « is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures the equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion » (Constitutional Council, DC No. 2007-557 of 15 November 2007).

For its part, the French regulatory authority for information technology and civil liberties, the CNIL, published recommendations on 16 May 2007 on measuring diversity, ethnic statistics and equal opportunities, and in 2012 a guide that aims to be a practical description of the rules to be respected in order to measure possible discrimination in companies or administrations and to evaluate the corrective actions implemented. 25 thematic sheets detail the actions that can be taken and the precautions that must be taken.

Are there any developments to forsee in France in the area of diversity management?

The #CNIL may have to reassess its position in the coming months.

A diversity index, currently being prepared by the French Minister for Equality between Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, will soon be offered to French volunteer companies. It will make it possible to measure the diversity of an organisation, whether public or private.

To follow.

Laurent CARRIÉ
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