Equal Opportunities Policy

  • HR Policies Documentation
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Read our Equal Opportunity Policy advice guides for employers, or contact us for further HR, Health & Safety and Employment law advice.

All employers must comply with the Equality Act 2010. The best way to adhere to these legal guidelines is by creating an equal opportunities policy.

This type of workplace policy helps ensure employees are thriving at work, learning new skills, and developing their careers.

If you neglect equal opportunities, you could end up facing discrimination claims, losing talented employees, and causing losses for your organisation.

In this guide, we'll look at what an equal opportunities policy is, what the law covers, and how to create one for your workplace.

What is an equal opportunities policy?

An equal opportunities policy is a set of guidelines that show a company's commitment towards fair treatment and equality.

The policy showcases equal rights at work, equal access to jobs, and fairness during recruitment – although this list is not exhaustive. It also helps you deal with workplace discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.

Every organisation has a legal duty to comply with the UK law on equal opportunities. And having a written equal opportunities policy helps to manifest your actions.

What are the benefits of having an equal opportunities policy?

Even though it's not a legal requirement, there are so many upsides to having a written policy. Let's take a look at the benefits of an equal opportunities policy:

Commitment towards equality and diversity

The policy shows your organisation's commitment towards promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. It's such a good practice to have that every employee and job applicant ends up feeling valued and confident at work.

Raise awareness on unlawful discrimination

The policy helps to raise awareness on all types of discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. Unlawful discrimination can happen with or without intent. Policies help you deal with unlawful treatment and take the correct legal action when needed.

Create a safe and positive work environment

The policy allows employers to create a safe and positive work environment. Knowing that their employer stands firm will help employees feel like they’re treated fairly and respectfully. It can even help boost employee morale and even staff retention rates.

What does the Equality Act say about equal opportunities?

The Equality Act 2010 is the main legislation when it comes to equal opportunities in the workplace.

The act protects all people are protected from unlawful discrimination. Every company should provide its employees with equal opportunities when it comes to their job. For example, during recruitment, training, and even during job terminations.

Under the Equality Act, you cannot discriminate against nine protected characteristics. Let's take a look at each protected characteristic in more detail:


This is when you're treated unfairly due to being a particular age group. This applies to both young and old employees.

Here's an example of discriminating against age: a manager asks an elderly worker to volunteer for redundancy because they're the oldest person in the organisation.


This is when you face unfair treatment due to having a physical or mental health condition. These conditions can shape a person's daily activities or capabilities.

Here's an example of discriminating against disability: an employee in a wheelchair is excluded from training due to accessibility issues.

Gender reassignment

This is when you're discriminated against due to identifying as a trans-person. This includes those who have those proposing to undergo, undergoing or having undergone a process to reassign their sex.

Here's an example of discriminating against gender reassignment: a trans person is rejected from a teaching role due to their gender identity.

Marital and civil partnership

This is when you're treated unfairly due to being married or in a civil partnership.

Here's an example of discriminating against marital and civil partnership: a female, married worker isn't given night shifts because their manager thinks she should be at home in the evening.

Pregnancy and maternity

This is when you face unfair treatment due to being pregnant or having a new-born baby.

Here's an example of discriminating against pregnancy and maternity: a manager declines a training request from an employee because they're going to go on maternity leave soon.


This is when you're discriminated against due your race, ethnic, or national origin.

Here's an example of discriminating against race: a job advert discourages foreign candidates from applying because it has an English-speaking specification.

Religion or belief

This is when you're treated unfairly due to your religious faith or personal beliefs.

Here's an example of discriminating against religion or belief: a worker is asked to remove her hijab because it's not part of the office work attire.


This is when you face unfair treatment due to your sex; i.e., men and women (according to the Equality Act).

Here's an example of discriminating against sex: a female employee is paid less than her male colleague despite being working in the same role.

Sexual orientation

This is when you're treated unfairly due your sexual orientation; i.e., being part of the lesbian, gay, or bisexual community.

Here's an example of discriminating against sexual orientation: a worker is denied a promotional opportunity because the recruitment manager disagreed with their sexual orientation.

What happens if you don't comply with equal opportunities legislation?

There are several corporate and legal downfalls if an employer fails to comply with equal opportunities legislation.

First of all, employees end up suffering from bullying, harassment, and discrimination - which breaches their legal protection and equality rights. They could decide to raise claims through grievance procedures or directly to an employment tribunal (ET).

This could leave employers with hefty legal expenses, not to mention compensation fines and business damage if unlawful discrimination is proven. They may be forced to re-employ anyone that's been unfairly dismissed.

Employers must avoid breaching any kind of equal opportunities legislation. This extends to any incidents caused by other employees, customers, or even clients linked to their organisation.

How to create an equal opportunities policy for the workplace

Every equal opportunities policy will vary from company to company. That's because they reflect on their own work cultures, employee numbers, and employment practices.

Policies should be simple to understand and in plain English (without technical jargon). This will help demonstrate an employer's (and their organisation's) commitment towards ending discrimination at work.

Let's take at how to create an equal opportunities policy for your workplace:

Create an introductory statement

An equal opportunities policy should always start with an introductory statement.

The starting point should reflect your commitment towards creating equal opportunities for all staff-members. It should also highlight how your organisation aims to deal with bullying, harassment, and other discriminatory behaviour.

Your policy should be transparent about promoting equality, inclusion, and diversity. And ensure company practice and procedures aren't discriminatory towards job applicants and workers.

Comply with equal opportunities legislation

The next step involves showing how your company complies with equal opportunities legislation.

Make sure the policy talks about safeguarding every protected characteristic. This covers key terms like age; disability; gender reassignment; marital and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.

Present ways to report incidents

The policy should present ways to report discrimination, harassment, or bullying incidents.

All staff-members should know how to raise a formal complaint using your grievance procedures or other reporting methods. And you have overall responsibility when it comes to resolving key elements of discriminatory behaviour.

Reporting incidents may also include dealing with direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, and sexual harassment, too.

Highlight disciplinary procedures

The next step is highlighting disciplinary procedures for breaching your equal opportunities policy.

Clearly demonstrate that all staff-members should respect and act in accordance with the guidelines. If they breach the rules, they could face disciplinary sanctions like warnings, suspensions, and even dismissal (if applicable).

Review your policy regularly

The last step involves reviewing your equal opportunities policy regularly. This is especially applicable when a law has recently been updated or passed.

It's best practice to keep your policy in line with current laws to avoid legal breaches and tribunal claims.

Examples of implementing equal opportunities

It doesn't matter how many people you hire or what industry you work in. There are so many ways to implement equality and diversity into your employment practices.

Let's take a look at areas where you can implement equal opportunities:

Hiring and recruitment

Job applicants are protected from discrimination during their hiring stages. This includes everything from interviews to selection processes.

Your equal opportunities policy should present a clear objection to discrimination during hiring stages. For example, you can delete candidate names from CVs to avoid unconscious bias during recruitment.

Remember, job applicants are still protected from discrimination whether they become prospective employees or not.


Employees should acknowledge ways to advance themselves within the company they work for. This is especially crucial when they’re working towards promotions.

Promotional factors can include providing training and career development opportunities. Or ensuring job adverts are publicised internally and externally.


Issues on equal pay or gender pay gaps are all too common. Every employer must be able to ensure their staff are always paid fairly.

Your equal opportunities policy can help to promote pay transparency within the workplace. For example, including salary ranges within job adverts. Or ensuring employees know how to ask about raises.

Termination of employment

An employer should only terminate an employment contract as a last resort. But when it's unavoidable (like for gross misconduct), it must be conducted through the proper means.

If an employee believes they were wrongfully or unfairly dismissed, they may take potential legal action. An equal opportunities policy can help you investigate and provide evidence for fair reasons behind such terminations.

Get expert advice on equal opportunities policies with Peninsula

Discrimination doesn’t need to be intentional for it to cause harm. Ensuring you offer equal opportunities to all employees and applicants helps build a happier, more diverse workforce.

That's where equal opportunities policies come in. If you don’t keep inclusivity in mind when creating a succinct policy, you could end up discriminating against protected characteristics and even face tribunal hearings.

Peninsula offers expert advice on equal opportunities policies. Our HR team offers 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year.

Want to find out more? Get advice from an employment law specialist today. For further support, call our telephone number 0800 028 2420.

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