Diversity champions are named at special Titanic awards ceremony

Pinsent Masons was the winner of the Best LGBT Initiative category. Pictured (from left) are Barry Phillips, chair of category sponsor Legal-Island, with Paul Gillen, partnerat Pinsent Masons, and event host Sarah Travers

THE winners of the Northern Ireland Equality and Diversity Awards were revealed at a ceremony at Titanic Belfast, underlining the importance to the north's economy of charities, not-for-profit organisations and public sector bodies as well as private sector SMEs and large firms.

The awards, which are organised by Legal-Island, a local independent multi-award-winning workplace compliance company, in association with NICVA and sponsored by Diamond Recruitment Group and Jones Cassidy Brett, provide companies with an opportunity to showcase their commitment to advocating equality and diversity within their organisations.

Congratulating the winners and highly commended entrants, Barry Phillips, chair of Legal-Island, said: “These organisations are pioneering new standards of equality and diversity practices and driving the diversity agenda in Northern Ireland.

"The awards also provide a wonderful opportunity for sharing best practice and acknowledging the efforts of staff that are working consistently to further organisational objectives in this area.”

He added: “There are legal requirements associated with equality and diversity due to the importance of the issue. But it is essential employers view equality and diversity as much more than just a legal tick box exercise.

"Valuing diversity and recognising the multi-faceted benefits that it brings will help businesses and organisations to thrive. Driving diversity in the workplace will help drive it into the community outside too. This can only be good for Northern Ireland.”

Tina McKenzie, group managing director for awards sponsor Diamond Recruitment's parent company Staffline Group, said: “ We live in a global market with our local companies competing on a global scale so Northern Ireland is increasingly becoming recognised as having highly skilled people in a range of specialist areas.

"Employers need the right person with the right skill-set to help them deliver their organisational objectives, and that means having a diversity of skills, perspectives and backgrounds in their teams.

"They value diversity, and these awards are a fantastic channel for recognising what employers are doing to maintain an equal and diverse workplace. The awards also allow the wider community to celebrate in the success of individuals, groups and companies."

Award sponsor Jones Cassidy Brett added: "We are seeing employers being creative and consultative in relation to equality and diversity. They are speaking to their employees, drawing on best practice and establishing programmes and activities that support their staff and meet the legal requirements."

Judges were Ciara Fulton, a senior partner in Jones Cassidy Brett, a niche employment law firm based in Belfast, which is renowned for its expertise in employment and equality law; David Johnson, head of attendance and wellbeing at the PSNI; Lori Gatsi Barnett, a business owner, social entrepreneur and chair of Horn of Africa People's Aid Northern Ireland (HAPANI); and Maciek Bator, founder and project coordinator for the For Your Freedom & Ours social enterprise.

The winners were:

:: Best Employer for Diversity and Equality in Northern Ireland (small) - Northern Ireland Office.

:: Best Employer for Diversity and Equality in Northern Ireland (large) - Clanmil Housing Association. Highly commended – Deloitte.

:: Best Gender Initiative - Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Highly commended - Pinsent Masons.

:: Best LGBT Initiative - Pinsent Masons. Highly commended - Queen's University.

:: Best Disability Initiative - NOW Group. Highly commended – Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

:: Individual Diversity Champion - Teresa McDonough (Habinteg Housing Association). Highly commended - Adele Davidson (HR manager – equality, inclusion & legal, at Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service).

:: Individual Diversity Champion (education sector) - Professor Tom Millar (Queen's University). Highly commended - Dr Philip McDermott (Ulster University).

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