Diversity and equality: Has the pandemic changed the modern-day workforce?

Thursday 20 April 2023

Rajen Ramiah
SCL Nishimura & Asahi, Bangkok


Diversity and equality in the workplace are being discussed more often and more frequently by organisations and are becoming a core element used to gauge an organisation’s reputation. For example, certain companies will not work with a firm that does not have a clear and practical framework in place to address these issues. This is an encouraging sign in terms of creating a more diverse society.

In certain parts of the world, particularly in Europe, remote work was relatively common in certain industries during the pre-pandemic era; however, the pandemic has ‘popularised’ this concept. During the global Covid-19 pandemic, working from home (WFH), which refers to work being conducted remotely instead of at the employer’s establishment or premises, was one of the most-mentioned phrases in Thailand and was generally warmly embraced. WFH has been popular since the pandemic and remains widely implemented. Indeed, a hybrid working environment is very much a selling point of new jobs aiming to attract employees.

WFH or hybrid working platforms make society more flexible, especially for women. For example, in the legal industry this added flexibility allows female lawyers and young partners to avoid the need to place their careers on hold due to having a family, which previously has been an issue in some jurisdictions in Asia, and a problem their male counterparts do not encounter.

The changing working environment

Legislation has been enacted in some jurisdictions to ensure that the rights of both employees and employers are protected in WFH situations. For example, on 28 December 2022 the Thai Parliament passed the Labour Protection Act (No 8) BE 2566 (2023), which amends the Labour Protection Act BE 2541 (1998) (LPA) to include WFH situations.

This is indeed a step forward in recognising that the dynamics of the working environment are changing and that the appropriate steps are being taken to accommodate these changes. WFH and related changes substantially increases the pool of talent available to organisations, as employees do not need to be physically present at the employer’s premises. Companies benefit from securing employees who come from various backgrounds and walks of life, which creates a balanced, diverse working environment. This cross-pollination of diverse talents and experiences enriches society and creates a better work–life balance, which is highly important to employees.

The partner in charge of the Employment Law practice at SCL Nishimura & Asahi, Bangkok, Ms Boonyasith says “[…the] said amendment to the LPA is a good sign that working from home or work remotely and the employees’ right to be disconnected [have] eventually [been] recognised under Thai law. An excellent development and it will be interesting to see practical guidelines and court precedents achieving the balance between the employers’ benefits and the employees’ rights from the said work scheme.”

In Asian society, WFH flexibility gives many people the time and opportunity to take care of family responsibilities, while simultaneously maintaining a career and generating income, which puts them in a much better place than the pre-pandemic world. Previously, caregivers sometimes had to sacrifice their careers and income to care for their children or elderly parents. However, this new working environment gives everyone much better opportunities to manage their personal and professional responsibilities, without sacrificing either. In the past, one person leaving a job to handle the family’s needs often reduced the financial capabilities of a household. Now, WFH empowers those same households to maintain or even increase their financial stability.

This new working environment, which reflects an emerging lifestyle, also gives people with disabilities a chance to use their skills and talents in the workforce. Their disabilities may have made it challenging for them to find and keep employment in the past, but WFH has created more opportunities for them to join the larger workforce. They do not have to be physically present at the employer’s premises, instead they can WFH.

The situation in Thailand

In Thailand, companies are required by law either to hire one registered person with a disability (PWD) for every 100 employees, or to make an annual contribution to the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. In the past, many companies chose the latter option, resulting in THB 2bn in annual contributions. However, the manner in which this fund is used and distributed is not reported clearly, and many of the needs of PWDs who seek employment remain unmet. In addition, companies that make contributions are not taught or informed about how they can hire PWDs.

Historically, the challenge in Thailand has been that most companies have limited connections with organisations that offer PWD resources or talent pools, or that can connect employers with PWDs who are available for work. Thus, companies have not been able to hire qualified PWD candidates that met their business needs and expectations. However, this is changing. Now, there are resources companies that can help meet recruitment needs. One such organisation is Steps, in Bangkok. Steps offers education and employment to young neurodivergent people, runs inclusive businesses like cafes, provides consultancy services to employers, helps organisations diversify their workforce and helps make businesses more accessible. This is indeed a positive sign, and there are hopes that more opportunities for the PWD community will arise across a wide range of industries.

Although these are baby steps, the more exposure and publicity these initiatives receive, the more they will be accepted as ‘normal’ in the coming months, years and by the next generations.

Traditionally, PWDs are often not ‘seen’ in the community in Thailand. They are often kept at home, hidden from society. This has created various social problems for PWDs, for example, they may have developed an inability to interact properly with others in their communities. However, the PWD community now has a platform to operate within and contribute to society, and WFH is providing opportunities that did not exist before, giving PWDs a sense of belonging and the ability to make meaningful contributions to society.

The PWD community may be more visible in other jurisdictions, but this is not yet the case in Thailand. However, there is rising awareness of the issue and more people are taking an interest in the subject, creating a positive trend towards diversity and equality in the workforce in Thailand.


Although the global pandemic has caused much mayhem in recent years, it also has made us review and re-evaluate certain aspects of society. The positive impact from WFH, particularly with regard to the more vulnerable members of society, certainly seems to be moving in the right direction and helping to create a more diverse and inclusive society, as well as more equality. We should continue to embrace these changes and work towards even more diversity, inclusion and equality across society and around the globe.