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How to Write an Equal Opportunities Policy

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Equal opportunities is widely defined as a situation in which people have the same opportunities in life as other people without being treated in an unfair way because of characteristics such as race, gender, religion or age.

Why have an equal opportunities policy?

An equal opportunities policy will help to create a work environment that promotes fairness to all staff, applicants, contractors and customers. By implementing an equal opportunities policy you will:

  • Avoid unlawful and unfair behaviour
  • Make the best use of your workforce with legal employment practices
  • Attract and retain a good quality of staff to help your business flourish
  • Improve staff morale

What should I include in an equal opportunities policy?

An equal opportunities statement should show that your organisation recognises that certain people and groups are discriminated against, that your organisation is opposed to discrimination and has procedures in place to ensure this does not happen.

Your equal opportunities policy can be general or it could list the most relevant types of people vulnerable to discrimination, it is up to you. You do, however, need to state how people will be made aware of your policy and your organisation’s commitment to providing equal opportunities.

When writing an equal opportunities policy there are three main areas that you should focus on: aims and objectives, actions and review procedure.

Protected characteristics

Certain groups are more vulnerable to discrimination that other people. The following characteristics are protected against discrimination by law in the UK under the Equality Act 2010:

  • Age – Discrimination based on either someone’s age or because they are part of a particular age group
  • Sex – Discrimination based on a person’s gender, applies to all ages but excludes transsexuals as this is considered gender reassignment discrimination
  • Sexual orientation – Discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of someone they know, this can include a parent child or friend
  • Gender reassignment – Discrimination due to somebody being transsexual
  • Race – Discrimination based on the colour of someone’s skin, their nationality or ethnic or national origin
  • Gypsy and traveller - This is another form of race discrimination specifically targeting the gypsy and traveller communities
  • Religion or belief – Discrimination based on being part of an organised religion
  • Marriage and partnership – Discrimination based on a marriage or civil partnership
  • Disability – Discrimination based on physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on someone’s ability to carry out normal day- to- day activities

These are some of the most commonly discriminated against characteristics, although there is more legislation that protects other groups of people such as pregnant women.

Define your aims and objectives

Spend some time thinking about your organisation’s objectives for equal opportunities. This may mean that you set targets of specific goals that you wish to achieve.

It may be beneficial to have a meeting with your team in order to decide your objectives. Starting a discussion around how discrimination affects us and how your company is working at the moment with your team could well start the development of your Equal Opportunities Policy.

Actions

Once you know your aims and objectives it will be easier to assess what actions you need to take in order to achieve these goals within your organisation. What actions are you going to take to ensure that your aims and objectives are met? Ask yourself:

  • How can you make your organisation equally open to everyone regardless of their age, sex, race, religion or any other characteristics?
  • How can you ensure quality of employment?
  • Who is responsible for making sure these actions are met?
  • What will you do if people feel discriminated against or harassed?

Answering these questions should provide a good actions section to your equal opportunities policy.

Review procedures of the policy

You need to assess if your equal opportunities policy is working, so be sure to set a date when the policy will be reviewed.

Put equal opportunities policies in place now to avoid future problems

Without an equal opportunities policy in place your business is at risk of discrimination and the legal consequences that go along with discrimination.

If you’re unsure that your equal opportunities policy comprehensively covers those at risk of discrimination always consult an employment law professional. For free and impartial employment law advice about your business contact us now on 0161 115 6164.



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