How to Produce an Equal Opportunities Policy

September 23, 2015


Why do you need an Equal Opportunities Policy?  Who is it for?  What should it include?  Read on to get the answers to these questions and more….

Why do you need an Equal Opportunities Policy?

  • In order to comply with the statutory prohibitions on discrimination and to avoid unlawful discriminatory practices.
  • It promotes equality in the workplace and ensures fairness in the way decisions are carried out so you can better maintain a good working relationship with all your people, irrespective of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age.
  • It states your values on equality and diversity (fairness) and how they will be put into practice.
  • It shows your staff, potential recruits and customers that you are serious about fairness and helps them understand what behaviour you expect and what is not acceptable, and what they can expect of you.

Who is it for?
It’s important that the policy is communicated to all employees, and all levels of management must be fully aware of its contents.  The policy should be monitored regularly to ensure that it’s working in practice. You may find it useful to set up a staff council to occasionally review the policy.

What should it include?
HR180 can help you write your Equal Opportunities Policy – the essential elements it should cover are:

Job Advertisements

  • 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 where they are likely to reach all candidates
  • Application forms (if used)
  • Job descriptions must be up-to-date and identify key duties.
  • Questions on the application form must relate to information that will help assess whether the person can do the job.
  • Don’t assume that overseas degrees and diplomas comparable with UK equivalents are inferior.
  • Don’t disqualify applicants because they’re 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.
  • Applications from all candidates should be processed in the same way.  Ideally more than one person should be involved in the shortlisting process.
  • Information necessary for HR 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’s 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 the 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, e.g. 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.  Best practice would suggest that 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 the 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. Also, consider training for managers and supervisors in background and culture of minority groups if appropriate.

Flexibility/reasonable adjustments

  • State that, if reasonably practicable, reasonable adjustments will be made to working practices or arrangements which put disabled employees at a disadvantage.
  • State that where appropriate employees will be able to have reasonable flexible working arrangements, e.g. 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, e.g. 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, e.g. 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.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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