HR & Employment

Equal Opportunity Policies That Are Relevant For Businesses

Bryan Brown | 30 November 2021 | 2 years ago

Equal opportunity policies

Every business should have an equal opportunities policy in place. Not only will it help to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace, but it will also ensure that everyone is on a level playing field when at work. But what equal opportunity policies do you need to have in place for your business, and is it a legal requirement to do so?

In this article, we’ll talk you through exactly what is meant by equal opportunities, as well as taking a closer look at what you should include when you’re creating your equal opportunities policy. We’ll also look at some examples of equal opportunities in the workplace, to give you some ideas of how you can ensure equality in your company.

What does equal opportunities mean?

Equal opportunities is a term that refers to the concept of non-discrimination in employment, education, and business. Equal opportunities ensure equal treatment for all people, regardless of their background or personal characteristics. This means that everyone should be on a level playing field and judged on their qualifications, skills and performance, rather than facing a disadvantage as a result of their personal background.

The principle of equal opportunities is something that you need to be mindful of during the hiring process, but also throughout the employment journey of your workforce. For example, all employees should be given the same opportunities when it comes to training and promotion, whatever their race, religion, sex or marital status.

Workplace diversity

The concept of diversity is becoming more and more important in the workplace. Diversity means employing a wide range of different people, from different cultures and groups, and with varying characteristics. This diverse mix of people bring many benefits to the workplace, including providing different perspectives and new ideas.

Many industries are actively working to increase the diversity of their workforce. This is as a result of the benefits that businesses realise when they actively apply diversity procedures to their operations. For example, we regularly hear that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers are heavily dominated by males, leading many businesses in this sector to actively encourage women to enter the career.

Why is it important to have diversity in the workplace?

In the modern world, it is essential that businesses work to increase diversity in the workplace. As well as ensuring equality, this can also help to boost both productivity and profitability. Let’s take a look at why it’s so important to have diversity in the workplace.

At its core, having a diverse workforce is fairer. Equality in the workplace is important because it ensures that every employee has access to the same opportunities, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other factor. Without this type of equality, certain groups may face disadvantage.

Diversity can help to boost productivity and creativity. It encourages open-mindedness and the sharing of new ideas, which can give your business a competitive advantage.

It has also been suggested that having a diverse workforce can increase your profitability. Studies show that greater diversity can lead to more innovation and better financial performance. For instance, one study found that companies who are successful at attracting diverse talent enjoy 35% higher profits than their competitors.

It’s easy to see why many businesses are actively working to encourage diversity in the workplace through positive action.

benefits of equal opportunities at work

What are the benefits of equal opportunity in the workplace?

When you have a diverse workforce, it’s important that you prioritise equal opportunities. This means ensuring that all of your employees are on a level playing field and have the same opportunity to progress and develop.

By offering equal opportunities to your staff, your business will enjoy a wide range of benefits including:

  • Increased employee morale and motivation
  • Improved team productivity
  • New perspectives, opinions and ideas
  • Higher employee retention rates, as well as increased employee loyalty
  • Increased employee progression
  • An inclusive and nurturing working environment

What does the law say about equal opportunity at work?

Equal opportunity at work is regulated through the Equality Act 2010. This sets out the responsibilities of employers when it comes to workplace equality. Let’s take a look at what this legislation requires of employers.

The Equality Act came into force in 2010. The aim of this legislation was to bring together a large number of other policies and ensure consistency across the board.

The policies that were replaced by the Equality Act 2010 include:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against individuals because of their protected characteristics. The protected characteristics set out in law include sex, marital status, pregnancy and maternity leave status, disability, race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion/belief and age.

This legislation states that every employee and potential employee has the right to equal opportunities at work. This right to equality should exist at every stage of their employment, from the recruitment process through to opportunities for training and promotion and finally in redundancy decisions.

For this reason, every person should have the same chances when:

  • You are deciding who to hire
  • You are allocating training opportunities
  • You are deciding who to promote
  • Having their employment terminated
If a person is treated differently as a result of their protected characteristics, this is classed as discrimination. There is no minimum length of time that an employee must work for an employer before they are covered by the Equality Act – it applies to everyone whether or not they are employed.

Equal opportunity examples at work

Equal opportunity examples at work

It is vital that all employees are treated equally at work. This means that everyone should have the same opportunities during the recruitment, training and promotion processes, whatever their personal characteristics. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can ensure equal opportunity in your work place.

Recruitment

You should aim to use objective criteria when assessing job applications and employees’ performance, for example by ensuring that all applicants are assessed based on their qualifications or past experience. One way to do this is by removing personal details from CVs, so that every applicant is treated equally. You can also use tools like structured interviews, competency-based assessments or psychometric tests to ensure that all candidates are treated fairly.

Promotion

When an opportunity for promotion arises, it’s important that every employee has a fair chance of obtaining the promotion. The decision process should be as transparent as possible and should be based on skills, qualifications, experience and performance, rather than any individual’s protected characteristics.

Training

It’s important that you regularly discuss future career plans with all employees, as well as talking about opportunities to progress their career. When a training opportunity comes up, it’s critical that every employee is given the same opportunity to access that training. If there is a limited budget for training, you may need to create selection criteria to make the process fair for all employees.

Pay

Employees should be paid based on their job role and experience, rather than their personal characteristics. Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who are in the same job role and performing equal work must receive equal pay, unless the differences can be justified.

Redundancy

If the time comes that redundancies need to be made, this needs to be done in a fair and equal way. Sometimes it may be an entire department that needs to be made redundant, such as a particular branch of a shop that is closing. However, if you need to reduce the total number of employees within an organisation, you’ll need to create clear and transparent selection criteria to ensure that the process is done fairly. This could include performance, skills, experience, attendance and disciplinary record.

Policy

Every employer should have a clear equal opportunities policy that sets out the equality legislation and explains how the business will take steps to abide by this legislation and to promote equality within the workplace.

Equal opportunities policy

Equal opportunities policy

Every business should have an equal opportunities policy that explains the measures that are being taken within the workplace to ensure the fair and equal treatment of employees. Let’s explore the equal opportunities policy in more detail.

What is the purpose of equal opportunities policy?

An equal opportunities policy is essential a manifesto for fairness and equality within an organisation. This document should set out the steps that an organisation take to ensure the equality of all within the business. This policy should also provide guidelines on how issues surrounding equality will be dealt with by the organisation.

There are many benefits of having an equal opportunities policy including:

  • Proving your commitment to equality and fairness
  • Minimising potential conflict
  • Protecting the business from legal action
  • Attracting a more diverse range of job applicants
  • Raising employee awareness

Is it a legal requirement to have an equal opportunities policy?

There is no outright legal requirement for an employer to have an equal opportunities policy. However, it is highly recommended that every business that employs staff creates an equal opportunities policy, both to demonstrate their commitment to equality and to protect the business from potential legal action.

When it comes to equality and diversity, the legal obligations of the employer are as follows:

  • To do all that is reasonably possible to prevent the discrimination and harassment of employees within the workplace.
  • To treat both employees and potential employees equally with regards to recruitment, benefits, promotion, redundancy and other workplace matters.
  • To ensure that equal pay legislation is complied with.

What to include in an equal opportunities policy

Although it is not a legal requirement to have an equal opportunities policy, it is highly recommended that every employer has one. This does not need to be long and detailed, but there are a few things that you should ensure that you include. The most critical elements of this policy will be your company’s position on discrimination and how you will deal with any incidents that arise. You should also include your complaints procedure.

Here are some of the most common things that are included in an equal opportunities policy:

  • A statement of commitment regarding equal opportunities and discrimination within your business.
  • An overview of the Equality Act 2010 and the types of discrimination covered, such as race, sex, age and disability.
  • An explanation of what is meant by the terms bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation to avoid any claims of confusion regarding the terms.
  • An emphasis that every employee must act in accordance with this equal opportunities policy.
  • An emphasis of the equal opportunity that is given to job applicants and employees.
  • An explanation of the procedures in place to deal with complaints related to discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation.
  • A link to the grievance procedure with contact details for the person responsible for the process.

Related questions

How can you ensure equal opportunities at work?

The best way to ensure that your company complies with equality legislation is to create an equal opportunities policy and then ensure that all employees understand the policy. This policy should be updated at least annually, and employees asked to re-read the policy after every update. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of the company’s stance when it comes to equal opportunity, whilst also helping to protect the business in the event of a discrimination claim.

What are the main points of the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 sets out the legislation that both individuals and businesses must follow to prevent discrimination in the workplace, as well as in wider society. The aim of this legislation is to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all, as well as preventing discrimination against those who hold one or more of the protected characteristics.

In summary

Whilst it is not a legal requirement that businesses have an equal opportunities policy in place, it is highly recommended. Not only does this demonstrate to job applicants, employees and customers that your business is dedicated to equality and fairness, but it can also help to protect your business in the case of a claim at the employment tribunal.

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