Employers are being urged to review their equality and diversity policies ahead of the arrival next week of new regulations outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and religion.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has called on organisations to "expand their horizons" when it comes to dealing with diversity or face being vulnerable to complaints under the new legislation.
The new regulations come into force on December 1 and 2, and will outlaw direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and religion or belief.
Dianah Worman, CIPD specialist adviser on diversity, said: "The signs are that organisations are beginning to realise that valuing and managing diversity is about more than legal compliance and a must for remaining economically competitive.
"Nevertheless there is still a great deal of ignorance about diversity and a lack of appreciation of the benefits it can bring to business. The new regulations, which signal that diversity goes beyond gender, race and disability, should help to gear up action by employers."
With more than 90% of employers reporting problems in filling job vacancies, according to the CIPD's latest recruitment survey, the need to be smarter at diversity was paramount, she added.
But employers were beginning to cotton on that this is the case and adopting different ways of attracting, recruiting and retaining people, said the CIPD.
The institute has produced a guide for employers, entitled Tackling Religious Discrimination: an introduction to the law, to help them to better understand the new responsibilities.
This makes four key recommendations:
* Ask employees what their requirements are, and where appropriate, whether they would like to set up an advisory body on religion and belief. * Review all policies and procedures, from recruitment to appraisal and leave arrangements. * Give managers diversity training and provide them with guidelines on how to deal with workplace issues.
"Employers need to ensure that their policies now cover harassment on the grounds of religion or belief and sexual orientation and that these are drawn to the attention of all employees," added Worman.