UK SMES: Flag-bearers for diversity?

Half of all UK SMEs say they have a diverse workforce, with one in three planning to improve diversity is a priority over the next 12 months.

The Aldermore SME Future Attitudes report reveals today that more than half (55 per cent) of all UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – representing over 3 million firms in the UK with under 250 employees – said they have a diverse workforce, with a further third (36 per cent) stating that improving diversity in the workplace is a focus over the next 12 months.

The report, which surveyed over a thousand senior business decision-makers across the UK, found that there are a number of reasons they would describe their organisation as diverse. This includes an employee base with a wide age range (53 per cent), an ethnically diverse make up (48 per cent) and a good female to male ratio (44 per cent).

More than two fifths (41 per cent) also have female employees at a senior level and more than a third declared they were open to making adjustments for disabled employees and ensured an inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees (36 per cent and 35 per cent respectively).

Moreover, nearly two fifths (37 per cent) of UK SMEs admit to being much more likely to do business with a supplier, partner or provider that is well known for its inclusive employment strategies.

Despite this positive picture, a quarter (26 per cent) of small and medium sized businesses say they have no intention of becoming more diverse over the next year and a further 22 per cent says that increasing diversity was a low priority for them.

This could be because their workforce is too small to be considered diverse (56 per cent), but, at the same time, some SME leaders also confessed that they were also more likely to employ someone that is similar to their existing workforce (24 per cent), that candidates in their sector tended not to come from a diverse range of backgrounds (19 per cent), and that they tended not to attract a diverse range of potential employees (17 per cent).

Carl D’Ammassa, group managing director, Business Finance at Aldermore, says, ‘It is heartening that so many UK small and medium-sized business owners describe their workforce as diverse. However you define diversity, be it by age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability, promoting a diverse workforce should be a key consideration within any business, since employees from a range of backgrounds can offer different experiences to help drive the success of progressive businesses.’

Further reading on diversity

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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