The clear economic and organisational arguments for diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace are being drowned out by half-baked schemes which are ineffective and create resentment, muddled thinking on the part of one-dimensional executives and ‘diversity washing’ – employers whose words and actions are completely at odds with each other.

America’s culture war is fast becoming Britain’s culture war. And whilst it’s inevitable that employers will be dragged into the debate, it’s important that they tread very carefully. Which is why we are surprised that Lloyds Banking Group has rolled out an ‘Inclusive Language’ dictionary explaining to staff which words, phrases or colloquialisms can be used but, more importantly, which ones must be avoided for fear of offending someone. The problem with the Bank’s approach to language is that the more we allow people to claim they have been offended because they disagree with the use of certain words or phrases, the more they will seize the opportunity to be offended. We deal with this on a daily basis and we have ask, is this kind of nanny state approach to language going to make things better or worse in Lloyds?

Lloyds says: “Our language often reflects how we view the world and the habits we’ve formed. It’s essential in our everyday lives and at work. But what if our language negatively impacts another person? There are many terms businesses use that have strong negative associations and using them creates barriers based on elements associated to social mobility, education, religion, accessibility, race & ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and more”.

The Bank then produces a series of words including ‘Guinea Pig’, ‘Headless Chicken’, ‘Kill Chain’, ‘Lost in Translation’ etc, etc. Staff are then given a definition of the word, an explanation of why it might be considered offensive and alternative words which Lloyds says are more ‘inclusive’ and thus more acceptable. In respect of ‘guinea pig’, for example, Lloyds says use of that word might upset vegans because it’s associated with “experimentation on non-human animals”. Lloyds also says: “Veganism is recognised as a philosophical belief and is protected by the Equality Act 2010”. That’s correct but gender critical thinking – which refers to the view that someone’s sex – whether they are male or female – is biological and immutable, is also a philosophical belief and protected by the Equality Act 2010. Can you imagine what would happen to any member of staff in Lloyds who ‘liked’ one of J.K. Rowling’s tweets on gender for example?

On the question of whether staff are required to use the ‘new’ language, Lloyds says: “You may agree with some terms and disagree with others – that’s OK! You don’t have to adopt alternatives, though do explore why we recommend doing so and the urgency which they are suggested.”. However, what happens if member of staff A is offended by a word or phrase used by member of staff B? Will that member of staff be subject to the disciplinary procedure for use of offensive language and breach of the Colleague Conduct Policy or the Code of Ethics and Responsibility or the Group Values? The Colleague Conduct Policy says: “Colleagues must ensure that their communications are appropriate at all times.”. Is using a word or phrase banned by Lloyds appropriate communication?

The Bank needs to address this issue directly: will staff be disciplined for using language that doesn’t conform to the new ‘Inclusive Language’ dictionary’? If the Bank refuses to answer that question, then members must assume that’s exactly what could happen.

Scottish ‘Separated’

You remember what I said about ‘diversity washing’. Interestingly, one of the words in the ‘Inclusive Language’ dictionary’ is ‘widow’. According to Lloyds, the word widow is: “unnecessarily vivid and potentially upsetting term to use in the context far removed from bereavement. Specifically, this can trigger unwarranted personal memories of trauma and upsetting situations.”. The Bank says that the alternative word, ‘separated’ should be used immediately.

Now it may not have dawned on those putting the dictionary together but one of the Lloyds brands is called ‘Scottish Widows’. Is that inclusive or exclusive branding? So, are we to assume that the reference to ‘Widows’ in the brand name will be removed immediately? No, don’t be silly. Why? It’s simple: Lloyds is engaged in the most hypocritical form of virtue signalling. If it really believed in the use of inclusive language, then it would change the Scottish Widows brand name immediately. The fact that’s not going to happen tells you all you need to know about ‘Inclusive Language’ in Lloyds Banking Group. It’s a gimmick!

The next load of washing will be going in shortly.

Members with any questions on this Newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).




Pin It on Pinterest

Share This