Equal Opportunities in the Workplace

Hannah Williamson

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26 May 2021

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The UK is a multicultural, multiabled and neurodiverse country. To reflect this, UK legislation sets minimum standards on employee-employer relationships involving diversity. This is to ensure equal opportunities for all in the workplace. This is the Equality Act.

Failure to follow this legislation can lead to discrimination cases, which carry an unlimited fine and no minimum service period. But it is not only the legal ramifications, but a tarnished reputation for future recruitment.

On the other hand, having a workplace that encourages equality will help your employees be more successful, happy, and motivated. Which allows you to keep morale and profits high.

We explore how you can promote equality opportunities in your workplace through your internal policies, supporting your employees properly.

What does equal opportunity mean?

Equality in the workplace means equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants. No one should have poorer life chances because of things they can’t change. Such as the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.

The Equality Act 2010 ensures employers uphold these ideas and beliefs by making it legislation. It prohibits employers from treating someone unequally by making it a legal offence through discrimination.

All people must be treated equally or similarly and not disadvantaged by prejudices or bias. This means that the best person for a job or a promotion is the person who earns that position based on qualifications, experience, and knowledge.

This does not mean you treat everyone the same, as differently-abled people need different things. It is about ensuring equal access for these opportunities; this may mean taking action or changing to accommodate those with different needs.

The legislation defines these actions as reasonable adjustments, to ensure there is an equal platform. This however, only applies to disabilities.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand but differ from one another. This means that you need to consider them both in your strategies when combatting a lack of equal opportunities in the workplace.

A diverse workplace isn’t automatically inclusive. One of the core issues is those from diverse backgrounds feel their voices aren’t heard. You need to not only attract and hire diverse talent but support, engage and keep that talent, too.

In simple terms: diversity is the mix and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

Diversity

Diversity is about recognising the difference between disparate groups of people.

It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making and the workforce representing the organisation’s customers.

Everyone in an organisation brings with them a diverse set of perspectives, work, and life experiences, as well as religious and cultural differences.

You can only take advantage of the benefits of diversity once you recognise these differences. You must learn to respect and value each individual regardless of their background.

Inclusion

Inclusion is where people’s differences are valued and used to enable everyone to thrive at work.

An inclusive working environment is where everyone feels they belong without having to conform. That their contribution matters, and they can perform to their full potential, regardless of background, identity, or circumstances.

An inclusive workplace will practise fair policies and enables a diverse range of people to work together effectively.

The importance of equal opportunity in the workplace

An equal and inclusive workplace culture allows all people to thrive at work, regardless of their background, identity, or circumstance.

Any business case for diversity must consider the potential positive outcomes for individuals, such as the impact on wellbeing, and balance them with business outcomes.

Advantages of equal employment opportunities

Having a diverse workforce means that the organisation can offer a wide range of ideas, skills, resources, and energies, giving the business a competitive edge.

There is a much wider pool of talent available to organisations that embrace diversity. Some of the key benefits of diversity management include:

  • You can utilise knowledge of different areas of the community
  • You can reach a better understanding of market segments and consumer behaviour
  • You can become an employer of choice
  • You will keep a wider talent pool when recruiting
  • You will have a more ‘balanced’ and representative workforce

The working environment that such diversity management initiatives will produce will also be beneficial to employees. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Staff will have a better appreciation and respect for difference
  • It will encourage contrasting perspectives, which can lead to improved team productivity and success
  • Employees’ morale will be improved, which raises motivation
  • It will improve standards of delivery
  • Retention of employees will be strengthened, as will employee progression
  • All work will take place in a vibrant, inclusive, and nurturing environment

Equal opportunity laws in the workplace

Every employee has the right to equal opportunities and equal employment. The right to equality should be at every stage of employment, including the pre-employment phase.

This means every individual should have equal chances when:

  • You are assigning job posts pre-employment.
  • You are deciding who will give training to while employed with the organisation.
  • You are deciding who to give promotions to while employed with the organisation.
  • An equal chance to have their employment terminated equally and fairly.

The Equality Act has specified nine areas that are termed in the legislation as protected characteristics. These include (in no particular order):

  1. Age
  2. Sex
  3. Race
  4. Disability
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Marital status
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Gender reassignment
  9. Religion or beliefs

Treating anyone differently based on these characteristics in comparison to those who don’t have these characteristics would be discrimination in employment law. There is no minimum service period and no limit on the fine that a business can receive.

Discrimination is not only illegal, but it can derail your business. This is because of the massive negative effects it can have on employees. Discrimination can:

  • Damage an individual’s wellbeing, performance at work, and intention to stay.
  • Adversely affect employment opportunities.
  • Result in failure to recognise skills-based abilities, potential and experience.

Equal opportunity examples in the workplace

There are obvious benefits to making a commitment to equal opportunities in the workplace. But what do you need to become an equal opportunity employer? How can you promote it within your workplace?

Here are some ways that businesses have successfully promoted equality at work.

  • Workplace policies: the steps the organisation will take to abide by equality legislation and promote equality in the workplace.
  • Recruitment: procedures that prevent any discrimination during recruitment, such as CVs with no personal details.
  • Promotion: ensure you discuss regularly with all members of staff about how they see their career developing, This includes any training and support they need to progress into more senior roles in the company.
  • Pay: pay no employee any more or any less than any of their colleagues who are performing the same role because of any discriminatory reason.

Expert support on discrimination and equality from Croner

Giving equal opportunity and managing diversity is about having the right person for the job regardless of sex, race, and disability.

Our experienced employment law and HR advisors can help you navigate through this difficult subject. With expert advice, you can be sure you are making the right decisions.

Our experts provide free help, support, and advice tailored to your requirements. Call us for free today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Hannah Williamson is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 10 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Manufacturing Industry.

Working for a Global manufacturer provided Hannah with the opportunity to work in America and across Europe supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Hannah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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