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Equal Opportunities Policy

An equal opportunities policy is a formal manifesto that sets out an organisation’s commitment to fairness. It also lays down guidelines on how it will deal with issues that contravene these guidelines.

The equal opportunities policy of an organisation does not have to be long and complicated. A simple, succinct policy will suffice provided that some thought is put into the wording of the policy so that it is relevant to your particular company.

Why Every Company Must Have An Equal Opportunities Policy

There are numerous reasons why you must have an equal opportunities policy in place for your company.

Demonstrates your commitment –

Putting in the time to create a legitimate policy shows that you are aware of issues relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation and that you are willing to take measures to make sure it does not happen within your organisation.

Raises workers’ awareness –

Very often, workers unintentionally discriminate against, humiliate or ignore minority or disadvantaged groups. They may not mean to be discriminatory but it is still unlawful. When you have a policy that emphasises what constitutes discrimination and makes it clear that it is against the law, it increases awareness amongst your staff. This works two ways to create a fairer work place – potential perpetrators are made aware of the consequences and potential victims know that they have recourse to the law should they need it.

Reduces incidences of workplace conflict–

Knowing that their employer stands firm on fairness in the workplace can be very effective at curbing incidences of conflict in the workplace, particularly in instances where the conflict arises due to lack of understanding of fair employment practices. Training in these areas can be an effective proactive measure for preventing workplace conflict.

Boosts morale and increases worker retention –

Unfair treatment and conflicts can taint the workplace in the absence of a written equal opportunities policy. This can result in persisting worker dissatisfaction and a higher turnover resulting from voluntary resignations from employees who are disillusioned by unfair employment policies. Knowing that the company is an advocate of fair treatment can boost employee morale and decrease (employee) turnover, resulting in a win-win for you and your workers. When employee morale is high and turnover is low, organisations often see measurable positive differences in productivity and profitability.

Attracts “better” job applicants –

The aim of any recruitment strategy is to identify the right person for the job irrespective of age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability and other factors that have no bearing on an individual’s ability to perform their job. Having an equal opportunities manifesto in place can help attract better workers into your company. Employers who openly declare their commitment to fairness in their vacancy advertisement are more likely to attract a more diverse pool of qualified applicants who are confident that fair consideration will be given to them irrespective of non-job-related factors.

Protects you from potential legal action –

Companies that do not have an equal opportunities policy in place run a higher risk of getting embroiled in legal disputes filed by disgruntled workers alleging discriminatory treatment in hiring or employment practices. The benefits of having a written policy include lesser likelihood of legal action, reduced fees for legal expenses and less time spent trying to defend employment actions.

Makes it easier to get funding –

All companies are required to comply with the Equalities Act 2010. An increasing number of financial institutions today are reluctant to fund organisations that do not enforce this policy in their workplace for fear that their repayments could get held up in case of any litigation. Removing this potential obstacle out of the way improves your prospects for funding should the need arise.

What Is Included In An Equal Opportunities Policy?

While your policy does not need to be exhaustive, it is important to ensure that it emphasises your company’s stance on any discriminatory behaviour and how you will respond to any incident that contravenes it. The policy should also feature a complaints procedure, so any worker who is dissatisfied has a means to express themselves.

These are some of the key elements that you should consider including in your equal opportunities policy:

  • The introductory statement should be very clear about your organisation’s commitment to equal opportunities and non-discriminatory procedures and practices.
  • All the forms of discrimination covered by the Equality Act 2010 should be mentioned in the policy. This includes age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and pregnancy/maternity.
  • Make it clear that all employees are expected to respect and act in accordance with the policy and that any bullying or harassment in the workplace would be totally unacceptable and subject to action.
  • Emphasise that equality of opportunity exists for all job applicants, prospective employees and current workers.
  • The policy should clearly define and explain the difference between key terms such bullying, harassment and victimisation so that there is no confusion about these terms.
  • Explain the procedure that your organisation has put in place to deal with complaints regarding discrimination, bullying and victimisation. Include a link to a detailed, step by step grievance procedure that features the name and contact details of the manager or director who has overall responsibility for the policy.
  • Ensure that all employees are aware that an equal opportunities policy exists and keep the policy regularly updated and communicated so no employee can use the excuse of ignorance.

Involving your staff when developing your equal opportunities policy is highly recommended as it ensures that they will support and comply with the terms when it is implemented.