Equal opportunities policy template for UK businesses

Golden scales in an empty room

All employers need to comply with the Equality Act, and it’s sensible to put together an equal opportunities policy to formalise your approach.

An equal opportunities policy template can help you to make sure your business is covered. Read on to find out more about your legal responsibilities and what ‘equal opportunity’ means in UK businesses.

What is an equal opportunities policy?

Equal opportunity policies set out an organisation’s approach to equal opportunities and establish guidelines for dealing with workplace discrimination.

All workplaces must comply with equal opportunities legislation, and having a written policy can help to demonstrate your approach and explain it to your employees.

Equal opportunities legislation

Under the Equality Act 2010, people are legally protected from discrimination in society, which includes protection for employees in the workplace.

For a business, this means that everyone should have an equal chance to apply and be selected for posts, to be trained, to be promoted, and to have their employment ended fairly.

In particular, from the point of view of discrimination law, employers must not discriminate based on the following ‘protected characteristics’:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

An employee can make a claim to the employment tribunal if they believe they’ve been discriminated against.

If the claim is successful, the employer can be asked to pay compensation. This might happen even if the discrimination was by a colleague rather than the employer as they might be “vicariously liable”. However, if the employer took steps to prevent discrimination it might be able to defend that claim.

What’s in an equal opportunities policy?

An equal opportunities policy states the company’s commitment to equal opportunities. It’ll usually include:

  • a statement that employees must cooperate with the policy, promoting equal opportunities and preventing discrimination
  • a definition of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation, harassment, and discrimination arising from a disability
  • a description of how the recruitment process will uphold equal opportunities legislation
  • details of how training, transfer, and promotion will be fair and compliant
  • terms of employment (including equality in terms of benefits and pay)
  • how the organisation will deal with allegations of discrimination
  • how equal opportunity monitoring will take place

How to use an equal opportunities template

An equal opportunities template usually provides an example of an employer equal opportunities policy. It’s intended to give you a basis from which to form your company’s own policy.

You should go through the template carefully and adapt it to fit your business and your organisational structure. However, you should keep the legislation in mind when you’re doing this, always making sure that your policy complies with the 2010 Equality Act. Seek help from an employment law specialist if you need it.

It’s important to remember that your organisation must then follow what you set out in your policy. This goes far beyond preparing a policy document: it’ll mean putting processes, training, and checks in place to make sure you’re treating employees and prospective employees fairly.

Do you have any unanswered questions about creating an equal opportunities policy for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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