Equal opportunities

Aims of the policy

To promote equality in the workplace and to ensure fairness in the manner in which decisions are carried out in order to better maintain a good working relationship with all staff irrespective of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age.

To comply with the statutory prohibitions on discrimination and to avoid unlawful discriminatory practices.

Who is it for?

It should be communicated to all employees. It is particularly important that all levels of management are fully aware of the contents of the equal opportunities policy which should be monitored regularly to ensure that it is working in practice. Consideration may be given to setting up a staff council to review the policy from time to time.

Essential elements

Advertising jobs

  • Recruitment solely or primarily by word of mouth or recommendation from existing employees should generally be discouraged as it may perpetuate any imbalance in the workforce.

  • Job adverts should encourage applications from all types of candidates and should carry an equal opportunities statement.

  • Advertisements should not be stereotyped.

  • Job advertisements should be placed in publications likely to reach all candidates. Where one group is particularly under-represented, it may be appropriate for adverts to be placed specifically where they will be brought to that group’s attention.

  • When notifying vacancies for a position that has traditionally been done by one sex, employers should specify they are open to both sexes.

  • Do not positively discriminate – it is generally unlawful.

Application forms

  • Ensure that the job description is adequate and that the key duties are identified.

  • Ensure that questions relate to information that will help assess whether the person can do the job.

  • Overseas degrees and diplomas comparable with UK equivalents should not be assumed to be inferior.

  • Employers should not disqualify applicants because they are unable to complete an application form unassisted, unless personal completion of the form is a valid test of the standard of English needed to do the job.

  • Questions about marriage plans or family intentions should not be asked.

  • Avoid all questions unrelated to the job.

  • Applications from all candidates should be processed in the same way. Ideally more than one person should be involved in the sifting process.

  • Information necessary for personnel records may be collected after a job offer has been made. Photographs should not be requested with job applications.


  • Adopt procedures that will enable disabled employees to attend for interview.

  • Care should be taken at interviews to avoid misunderstandings that may arise from people with different cultural backgrounds.

  • Questions must relate to the requirements of the job. If it is necessary to assess whether personal circumstances will affect performance, this must be discussed objectively without detailed questions based on assumptions about age, marital status, children, domestic obligations etc.

  • Selection tests must be specifically related to job and/or career requirements and measure an individual’s actual, or inherent ability to do, or train for the work or career. Irrelevant questions or exercises on matters unfamiliar to ethnic candidates should be avoided eg general knowledge tests.

  • Ensure that those involved in the decision making process have received relevant training on equal opportunities and are aware of the provisions contained in the company policy.

  • Ensure that interviewers treat applicants on their merits and are aware of the dangers of assumptions about applicants fitting into the workplace.

  • Records of interviews should be kept showing why applicants were, or were not, appointed.


  • Opportunities for promotion and training should be communicated and made available to all staff on a fair and equal basis.

  • Age limits for access to training and promotion should not be set unless clearly justifiable.

  • Assessment criteria in appraisals should be examined to ensure they are not discriminatory and the scheme monitored to assess how it works in practice.

  • Ensure that men and women are paid equally for work rated as equivalent or of equal value in the demands made.

  • Terms and conditions of employment should be reviewed to ensure there is no discrimination. Length of service as a qualifying criterion should not exceed five years unless clearly justifiable.


  • Staff should be made aware that harassment or bullying will not be tolerated.

  • Ensure that employees are aware of reporting procedures for such incidents and how a complaint will be dealt with.

  • An employee who brings a complaint of discrimination must not be less favourably treated.

  • Consider language awareness training to make staff understand the importance of not inadvertently causing offence. Consider also training for managers and supervisors in background and culture of minority groups.

Flexibility/reasonable adjustments

  • Provide that reasonable adjustments will be made to working practices or arrangements which put disabled employees at a disadvantage

  • Provide that when appropriate employees will be able to have reasonable flexible working arrangements, eg part time work, flexible hours.

  • Where cultural or religious needs conflict with work requirements, consider whether the requirements can be adapted to meet those needs eg prayer times and religious holidays; dress codes.

  • Employees may request extended leave to visit overseas relatives. Employers should apply policies to deal with such leave consistently and equally.

Third parties

  • Customers/clients should be made aware that the organisation is committed to equal opportunities.

  • Particular care must be taken to ensure that employees are, so far as is reasonably practicable, not subjected to discrimination by third parties, eg customers.

  • Provide that rights and responsibilities of the policy will apply to contractors and other staff who are on site or in regular contact with employees.

Key legislation

Useful links

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