Martin Whitfield MSP has welcomed the launch of a two-year equality fund to make Scottish workplaces more inclusive and diverse.

The initiative, which has £800,000 available in its first year, aims to address longstanding barriers in the labour market so that everyone – irrespective of gender, age, race, or disability – can fulfil their potential and improve Scotland’s economic performance as a result.

Charities, third sector organisations, public sector organisations and private sector businesses can apply for up to £75,000 in each year of the fund to carry out activities that will help to improve diversity in the workplace.

The funding is used for projects focused on one or more priority groups from the following list: women; minority ethnic workers; disabled workers; older workers (those aged over 50); people who experience gender-based violence; workers who are experiencing social isolation and/or loneliness; workers experiencing symptoms of the menopause; and veterans and spouses of veterans.

Projects can take place within any sector, industry or geographic area provided that they demonstrate the impact on priority groups through addressing systemic inequalities in the workplace.

Organisations and businesses that wish to apply for funding should visit before 11 April 2022.

Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“Making workplaces fairer and more diverse is not only an equality issue, but also a productivity one, with evidence showing fairness at work is good for business too. 

“I encourage organisations in the South Scotland region to consider applying to the fund to support their efforts to make their workplaces more inclusive and diverse.

Pamela Stewart, deputy chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:

“We are proud to be working with the Scottish Government to deliver this important fund. As an inclusive and progressive organisation with a diverse workforce, we understand how valuable this is.

“We are committed to supporting projects that aim to improve workplace practices and diversity in the workplace, which is good for individuals and also good for business.

“We encourage organisations across Scotland to apply for support from the Workplace Equality Fund so that more employers can reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers.”

Head of business models and workplace innovation at Scottish Enterprise, Clare Alexander, said:

“Fair work principles lie at the heart of our approach to creating a more inclusive and equal economy across Scotland. Evidence shows that employers can benefit through productivity, employee retention and more by having a diverse, fairly rewarded and respected workforce.

“I’d encourage organisations to take the opportunity to apply for the Workplace Equality Fund and widen access to employment and progression. Having a more committed, better skilled and adaptable workforce who can spot challenges, solve problems and offer ideas for improvement creates real value.

“This is particularly important as we transition to a net zero economy and ensure that change is fair for the wellbeing of Scotland’s workforce.”

Previous recipients include the charity Age Scotland, which received funding for an Age Inclusive Matrix project, helping organisations to better support older workers.

Mike Douglas, Age Scotland’s director of social enterprises, said:

“We helped find ways for employers to better support older workers who are carers, as well as creating health and well-being support tailored to their needs. While flexible working is becoming more common, many people still associate it with parents of young children.

“Offering flexible opportunities to all can benefit both employers and workers, improving work-life balance and retaining skills that would otherwise be lost.

“With around a third of Scottish workers now over 50, it makes sense to invest in them. Employers benefit from a healthier, more motivated workforce and ensure that valuable skills and experience aren’t lost.”