Make equality a day-to-day realityOriginally published: April 2017 | Last reviewed: August 2017
If you understand what the law requires in terms of equal opportunities under the Equality Act, you're headed in the right direction. But how can you turn lofty ideal into reality? Enter your equal opportunities policy (or, for smaller nonprofits, equal opportunities statement).
Why draft an equal opportunities policy?
An equal opportunities policy or statement can help your organization to:
- Foster a culture of diversity and inclusiveness
- Improve recruitment and retention (and perhaps boost your reputation as an employer)
- Avoid illegal discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, and the potential consequences
- Take action against staff who don't uphold your principles
- Prevent potential conflict arising in the workplace
What should the equal opportunities policy include?
The equal opportunities policy and any supporting action plans should be in proportion to the size of your organization.
For a smaller organization often an equal opportunities statement is enough to ensure all staff know that their employer commits to fair and equal treatment. The statement can be included in your employee handbook or as part of a grievance or recruitment policy.
What's most important, as the Resource Centre underlines, is that you've thought about what you put into the document and that you can — and will — do what you've said.
For a larger organization it may be appropriate to implement a more thorough policy, in which case it should:
- Clearly state your organization's commitment to equal opportunities and nondiscrimination, and your aim to encourage and value diversity
- List all the forms of discrimination covered by your policy (referring to the Equality Act)
- Include equality of opportunity for all job applicants and employees
- Clearly state that any form of discrimination, victimization, harassment or bullying is unacceptable
- Set out procedures for dealing with complaints
- Oblige all staff to respect and act in accordance with the policy
- Include the title of the manager or director responsible for the policy
If possible, involve staff in drafting the policy or statement: this ensures that they'll support and comply with the procedure once implemented.
What does a sample policy look like?
ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides a template policy, although it's not designed specifically for charities. Similarly, Resource Centre provides short sample policies for small groups.
You can also download this short sample equal opportunities statement, provided by Work LDN:
Who approves the policy?
The board of trustees is ultimately responsible for approving the policy and ensuring that it's compliant with the law.
What happens once the policy is adopted?
Once finalized, your equal opportunities policy should be regularly updated and communicated among employees, volunteers and trustees. You may want to run short face-to-face training sessions to ensure everyone understands the details.
This article was produced with expertise from Work LDN, a London-based company that provides human resources outsourcing and specialist recruitment services.
Looking for U.S.-specific guidance? Read about equal employment opportunities for US nonprofits.
ACAS: Prevent discrimination: Support equality (2015)
Knowhow Nonprofit: Equal opportunities policies (2016)
Resource Centre: Equality and diversity policies for small groups (2016)
Equal Opportunities Commission: Equal opportunities policy