In Estonia, 49 employers have been awarded the Diverse Workspace label “Respecting Differences”, while 178 companies, public institutions and NGOs have signed the Diversity Charter. These are organisations that respect equal treatment and inclusive organisational culture and whose substantive work in managing diversity sets an example to others.
While the Diversity Charter is the first step towards valuing diversity and creating an inclusive working environment, those awarded with the “Respecting Differences” label go even further and set specific targets to strive for.
This year, we’re happy to see so many new label recipients. In addition to a large number of companies, several public institutions have also boosted their efforts in building an inclusive work culture. Viimsi Rural Municipality Government stands out by being the first local government to take such a substantive approach to promoting diversity. The addition of Tallinn University and the University of Tartu to the list of label recipients is also noteworthy. This means that universities are giving increasingly more thought to the diversity of their staff and students, as well as to the creation of an inclusive working and study environment. For example, Tallinn University has consistently worked on developing a bilingual working environment and offered language training to international colleagues. They also have a long history of making sure that employees who have become parents are not at a disadvantage in academic assessment compared to employees without children, and they have also set up a gender equality scheme. At the same time, Tallinn University HR Manager Eveli Ojamäe-Veider admits that there is still much to be done to build an inclusive work culture and take diversity into account. Developing an inclusive management culture, raising awareness of equal treatment and setting up a system for dealing with complaints of unequal treatment, gaining an overview of employees with special needs and their requirements and expectations all belong to the list of things that still need work.
The Diverse Workspace “Respecting Differences” labels were handed over by Hanna Vseviov, deputy secretary general of Social Affairs of the Ministry of Social Affairs, who shared her dream of having more employers in Estonia in ten years’ time who are not afraid to take on employees with special needs. Willing organisations can already turn to the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and Astangu Vocational Rehabilitation Centre for advice so they can feel confident about creating a working environment where people with special needs are comfortable and supported. On the other hand, she highlighted the need to create an air of trust in every organisation and a solution whereby employees can safely report violations of the principle of equal treatment without fear of stigmatisation or disclosure.
Even though everyone in Estonia still has much to learn about diversity and inclusivity, we are presented with a wealth of opportunities to take our organisations to a whole new level. During this journey, the Estonian Human Rights Centre helps employers develop effective solutions to respect and value people’s differences.
The Diverse Workspace “Respecting Differences” label is issued by the Estonian Human Rights Centre and launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The label is valid for two years and was awarded for the third time this year.
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