The subject of  equal opportunities might be viewed by employers as a minefield, but prevention of a problem is always better than a cure.  The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010.  It replaces, and in some areas extends, existing legislation on discrimination and equality.

There are compelling reasons for putting an Equal Opportunities policy in place: Protecting the company and our employees, compliance with the Equality Bill 2010 and winning business from the public sector – not to mention making a better environment in which to work.

The principles of fair treatment and respect need to be applied to everyone, regardless of any of the following, so called “protected characteristics”

  • gender
  • marital or civil partnership status
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy and maternity leave
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • disability
  • race
  • colour
  • ethnic background
  • nationality
  • religion or belief

Discrimination takes place if an employer treats someone less favourably than others on any of the grounds above. We used the Business Link and the ACAS websites for helpful guidance on the scope of the Act and how to set about our policy.


So what is the scope of the Act?

In the simplest terms,  being an equal opportunities employer means treating everyone fairly and with respect.   Our policy needs to reflect this as it applies not only our employees but also to the way we treat customers, visitors and job applicants. In short, anyone with whom we come into contact.  It should ensure a shared responsibility by all in the company to make our workplace a fair environment – and compliant within the law.

Understanding the scope of the act and the meaning of equal opportunities was the first step to putting our Equal Opportunities policy in place.  It sets out our commitment to recognising the rights of all individuals to fair treatment.  This covers fair and equal treatment at recruitment stage, treating all applicants in an unbiased manner, offering equal opportunities to employees for training and career development and making any reasonable adjustments for disabilities should they arise.

The 2010 Equality Act  extends previous legislation to include complaints of indirect harassment (ie not directed at the complainant) if it can be demonstrated that it results in making the workplace an offensive environment.  There is also a new provision for “associative discrimination”.  This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with with one of the protected characteristics listed above.

Who is responsible?

The responsibility for implementing good practice should be driven by management but shared by all.  In the area of equality that is particularly true. We all have a shared and individual responsibility to treat one another with the respect that we would wish for ourselves, regardless of our differences.

Raising the awareness of  managers and employees to the principles of equality and fairness and by building a culture of mutual respect should go a long way towards avoiding problems.   Our written policy is the company’s statement of intent.  It is putting the those standards of behaviour into practice, together with routine monitoring and review processes, that will build and maintain the culture of  respect within and hopefully avoid dispute.

If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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