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Zero Discrimination Day: Celebration and Action

Discrimination is a pervasive and entrenched issue that affects individuals and communities around the world. Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, or any other (protected) characteristic. In recognition of the importance of tackling discrimination in all its forms, Zero Discrimination Day is observed annually on 1 March. This day is a reminder for us all to celebrate diversity and to take action to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Zero Discrimination Day was first observed by the United Nations 10 years ago in 2014, following a campaign by the UNAIDS programme to promote equality in access to healthcare services for people living with HIV and AIDS. Inequality in access to care is a familiar issue to us in the UK, as recognised in our Safer care for all report in 2022. Over the last 10 years, Zero Discrimination Day has developed to include a broader set of themes of inclusion and acceptance for all people, regardless of their background or identity.

Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our collective experience. Diversity enriches our workplaces, our communities and our societies. It brings together unique perspectives, experiences and talents. It fosters innovation, creativity and growth – more diverse organisations are more successful. We should take the chance on Zero Discrimination Day to reflect on all the benefits of diversity and to appreciate the value it adds to our lives.

Post-reflection, we need to recognise that Zero Discrimination Day is a call to action. This means taking concrete steps towards creating more equitable and inclusive environments in our workplaces and communities – and striving to do better, day after day. Tackling discrimination was once described to me as like walking the wrong way on a moving walkway – you have to work really hard to make progress, and, if you stop or even slow down, your efforts then you end up going backwards. Zero Discrimination Day is not just a day – it is a reminder to redouble our efforts and to do so 365 days a year (or 366 days in 2024).

What action can we take? We undertook research last year to find out what the public see as discriminatory behaviour in health and care and how this can have an impact on confidence in healthcare professionals and on patient safety. With this report, we have started conversations to help the regulators and Accredited Registers we oversee take a more consistent approach in dealing with this type of behaviour.

Clearly there are actions for governments, local communities and organisations to take; but the focus of this blog is at the level of the individual. We each have a role to play in creating a fairer and more inclusive world. We can educate ourselves and others about different forms of discrimination and their impact. At the PSA over the last two years we have had memorable professional development seminars, designed and delivered by people with a diverse range of lived experiences – all of which have illustrated the impact of ignorance and discrimination. We need to use this education to challenge prejudice and to advocate for inclusive policies and practices in the workplace. We need to speak out against discrimination – individually and as an organisation; and we need to be an ally to those who experience discrimination.

On 1 March each year, Zero Discrimination Day should be a line in the sand, marking our best endeavours of the previous year and reminding us to double our efforts in the forthcoming year. Progress is staccato and can sometimes feel like ‘two steps forward and one step back’, which is clearly inadequate on a moving walkway. We have to believe that our individual commitment, corporate commitment and collaborative approach can together turn zero discrimination from an aspiration into a reality. 

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Please note the views expressed in these blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily reflect those of the Professional Standards Authority.