You’re committed to equality and diversity—but does your documentation reflect this?
To implement real change in the workplace, your contracts and policies should enable an inclusive culture. This means providing equal opportunities from recruitment to the last day of employment.
To get you started, click the button at the bottom of the page to download your sample equality and diversity policy template. Or, keep reading for tips on your diversity documentation…
What is an equality and inclusivity policy?
An equality and diversity policy is a written agreement, explaining how you will:
- Avoid discrimination in your organisation
- Promote equality and inclusivity
- Create a diverse company culture
We’ll go into exactly how it achieves all of the goals above, later. First, let’s take a look at your legal requirements as an employer.
Why should I have one?
It isn’t a legal requirement to have an equality and diversity policy. But, if discrimination occurs in your workplace, you could be held vicariously liable. A policy is your first line of defence against the issue. Not only does it help prevent discrimination occurring, it also gives you a process to follow if it does occur.
Many individuals, groups, and communities are more at risk of discrimination and harassment in society and the workplace. Having strict policies on these behaviours, and enforcing them properly, is the best way to combat discrimination in your organisation
That’s why it is ethical and logical to include the policy within your staff handbook.
What do I need to consider when reviewing or drafting my policy?
An equality and diversity policy doesn’t need to be long or fancy. In fact, keeping it short and simple often makes it more effective.
Then, consider the specific aims of the policy. Is it recognising that certain groups are likely to experience discrimination or harassment? Is it drilling down on how disciplinary action will hold staff accountable for their actions? Do you want to make a commitment to creating a more inclusive working environment?
Use the three goals outlined above as a starting point and build from there.
Once you have your own goals in mind, download our template below and use it as a basis to create your policy. If you need a second opinion, speak to one of our HR documentation experts today on 0800 142 2691.
What should I include in my diversity policies?
As a minimum, you need to touch on the nine protected characteristics, as outlined by the Equality Act 2010. These are:
Age discrimination occurs when an employee suffers a disadvantage as a result of their age. This often occurs during the hiring process. When recruiting, many employers will ask for a certain number of years of experience. However, unless you can objectively justify this requirement, it could be unfair discrimination.
It’s also common for age discrimination to occur towards the end of employment. For example, you might overlook an employee for a promotion because they’re soon due to retire. This too has the potential to be discriminatory.
Your policy should outline how you intend to avoid discrimination during recruitment, staff development, and more.
In employment terms, disability has a very specific definition. It refers to a physical or mental impairment which has an long-adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
The reason this definition is important is that the protected characteristic is more inclusive than it first appears. For example, there is debate around whether long COVID qualifies as a disability. So, always seek advice when making decisions regarding an employee with an underlying health condition.
Failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people could be discriminatory. This is part of your duty of care as an employer.
Read our blog on disability discrimination here.
This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood protected characteristics. Gender reassignment covers an individual undergoing a physical sex change, yes. However, it also covers non-binary staff members, anyone who has previously undergone gender reassignment, or who is planning on transitioning.
For more information on the gender reassignment protected characteristic, download our white paper.
Marriage and civil partnership
You cannot discriminate against an employee because they are married, or in a civil partnership. However, the equality act outlines that only those who are married or in a civil partnership are protected.
That means an employee isn’t protected if they’re engaged, living with their partner, or are divorced. But remember, discrimination can be because of more than on protected characteristic—marriage and pregnancy, for example.
Pregnancy and maternity
Quite a few employers run into an issue with this protected characteristic. It includes pregnant employees, illnesses related to pregnancy, including taking time off, as well as maternity leave and pay.
- Not offering them a job
- Changing their terms or pay
- Forcing them to work on maternity leave
- Not allowing them to return to work because they’re breastfeeding
They’re covered while they’re pregnant or on maternity leave. This cover ends when they return to work or leave their job. This doesn’t mean you can’t dismiss an employee while on maternity, but you must make sure the dismissal doesn’t relate to their pregnancy.
Get more information on pregnancy discrimination in our blog.
It’s your duty as an employer to provide a safe working environment for your staff. Your policy should protect staff against race discrimination in your organisation. This includes:
- Indirect discrimination
- Direct discrimination
It also covers all aspects of employment, such as pay, redundancy, promotion and working conditions. For a full view on race discrimination, see our blog here.
Religion or belief
It’s important to note there isn’t a definitive list of religions or beliefs. The Equality Act 2010 protects organised religions and groups, such as Christianity or Islam. However, any philosophical belief can be protected so long as it meets the correct criteria. One part of this is an assessment of whether it’s worthy of respect in a democratic society.
Indirect discrimination can occur because of religious beliefs. For example, your policies could require an employee to work a certain day of the week which may be holy or sacred. Or, you might have a uniform requirement that disadvantages a individual of a particular faith.
For more information on religion or belief, see our full blog here.
Sex discrimination applies to men and women equally. Male employees can discriminate against other men on the basis of sex. Female employees can discriminate against other woman on the basis of sex.
As with all protected characteristics, there are some exceptions. For example, it might be essential that the job role is performed by a certain sex. If you are recruiting for a single-sex role, we would recommend seeking independent advice.
Find out more about sex discrimination by reading our full blog, here.
This is when you treat an employee less favourably as a result of their sexual orientation.
‘Sexual orientation’ is who someone is sexually attracted to. For example:
- Your own sex
- The opposite sex
- The same and the opposite sex
A person’s orientation falls on a spectrum, however, these three definitions are important for legal purposes. To find out exactly why that is, read our full blog on sexual orientation discrimination here.
When considering your approach to equality and diversity in your workplace, think about potential diversity issues that could occur. For example, as part of your method, you may utilise positive action when hiring job applicants.
Positive action is when you take specific steps to improve equality in the workplace. For example, you might target a new role at a certain group of job applicants to improve representation. However, if you do engage in positive action, you must do so cautiously. It is easy for action to become discrimination, so always seek independent advice.
Also, your workers might have other characteristics not covered by the equality act, but still, make they feel discriminated against. While they aren’t protected, they can still raise concerns regarding bullying or unfair treatment. If an employee does make a claim of harassment, treat it seriously and investigate. Failing to do so can still lead to a tribunal claim against your organisation.
How often should I review my equality and diversity policy?
To ensure your equality and diversity policy is working effectively, you should conduct regular reviews. It is up to you how often this occurs. It could be annually, or bi-annually. It’s also worth reviewing as part of a full contract and documentation audit.
Whatever you decide, you should conclude your policy with a commitment to review. This will let your staff know that you aren’t relying on a blanket statement. Your policies should be somewhat adaptable and fluid.
Free equality & diversity policy
Having a policy in place is a great first step towards inclusivity in your organisation. Company culture is a growing priority for many candidates and is equally important to the retention of employees across the UK.
When you’re building your equality and diversity strategy, make sure you take into consideration all nine protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Address common problems that occur in HR processes, such as:
- Remuneration & reward
- Training & Development
And, make sure you outline your diversity goals and how your policies will help achieve them.
Get advice with Croner
We understand that creating and reviewing policies is a time-consuming task. Luckily, we have a team who write and review employment documentation on a daily basis. So, if you’re unsure where to start with your equality and diversity policy, download your free template by clicking the button below. Then, speak to our documentation team, who will talk you through how to build a compliant and effective policy. Call today on 01455 858 132.
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