Use this equal opportunities policy to set out how you prevent and eliminate workplace discrimination.
What is an equal opportunities policy?
An equal opportunity policy outlines the measures a business takes to eliminate and prevent discrimination and its duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Show a commitment to equal opportunity and diversity within the workplace with a clear and fair equal opportunities policy. A responsible employer wants employees to know that its decisions within employment, recruitment, progression and dismissal are based solely on employee merit and employer need.
When should I use an equal opportunities policy?
Use this equal opportunities policy template:
to help you fulfil your legal duty not to discriminate, harass or victimise
to inform employees and managers about equal opportunities
to explain what will happen if employees don't comply with rules about equal opportunities
only for employees based in England, Wales or Scotland
What is included in an equal opportunities policy?
This equality and diversity policy covers:
- aims of the policy
- who is responsible for equal opportunities and the special role of managers
- different types of discrimination and examples of prohibited behaviours
- arrangements for disabled workers
- avoiding discrimination during recruitment and throughout the employment relationship
- what to do if discrimination is discovered
- possible sanctions for breach of this policy
What is the purpose of an equal opportunities policy?
Displaying an equal opportunities policy shows commitment to equal opportunities and tackling discrimination within the workplace. It ensures that employees and managers are informed about equal opportunities and explains the consequences of non-compliance.
Who is responsible for equal opportunities within the workplace?
Those in senior positions (eg business owners, chief executives and directors) are responsible for the implementation, review and monitoring of the policy. Employers should also appoint a manager responsible for monitoring and implementing the policy on an everyday basis.
What are protected characteristics?
Everyone in the UK is protected by the Equality Act 2010, which specifies 9 protected characteristics. These are:
- marital and civil partner status
- sexual orientation
- gender reassignment
- religion or belief
Discriminating against workers and employees because of any of the nine characteristics is against the law.
What are the types of discrimination?
Discrimination can come in any of the following forms:
- direct discrimination - when a worker or employee is being treated less favourably than others because of association with one or more protected characteristic
- indirect discrimination - when someone with a protected characteristic is put at an unfair disadvantage, despite an employer putting rules and equality arrangements in place
- harassment - when someone's dignity is being violated through unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic creating an offensive environment for them
- victimisation - when someone is being treated unfairly because they have complained about discrimination or harassment
- disability discrimination - when someone with a disability is discriminated against and/or an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments to reduce disadvantages caused by disability
What aspects of the working environment are affected by equal opportunities?
The law protects you against discrimination at work, including avoiding unlawful discrimination in the process of:
- employment terms and conditions
- pay and benefits
- promotion and transfer opportunities
However, you may choose to opt-out of monitoring equal opportunities as part of the recruitment process.
What is the procedure for reporting discrimination?
Use a Grievance procedure to set out how to report discrimination. Any employee who observes or is aware of acts that they believe may amount to discrimination should report them to the appropriate person or department.
What are the consequences of not complying with an equal opportunity policy?
If an employee doesn't comply with the recruitment policy, they may be subject to disciplinary action. Non-compliance with the policy may lead to the dismissal of that person with immediate effect. This applies to all employees including those who hold senior positions.
In some circumstances:
employees may be personally liable for discrimination
acts of discrimination may result in legal action and criminal offence where it was intentional
An employer will also be responsible for acts of discrimination carried out by an employee unless they can show that they have done everything they could to prevent it.
For more information, read Equal opportunities and discrimination.
Is there a legal requirement to train staff on equal opportunities?
It is recommended to train staff on equal opportunities, however, it is not a legal requirement. Those responsible for recruitment, handling grievance and disciplinary matters should be trained on equal opportunities as they are the most likely to be the subject of discrimination allegations.