Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Promoting equality and diversity


In order to demonstrate your commitment to promoting equality of opportunity, you should develop a number of key policies and procedures in important areas. The Equality Commission recommends that you have written policies covering the following areas, at least:

  • an equal opportunities policy
  • a harassment policy and procedure
  • a grievance procedure
  • a recruitment and selection policy and procedure
  • a maternity policy
  • a flexible working policy and procedure
  • an equal pay policy

The Equality Commission has developed model policies in relation to these matters and they are available, free-of-charge, to download from the Commission's website.

Putting your policies into practice - acting like an equal opportunities employer

Having such written policies is not enough. You must also implement them and continually take reasonably practicable steps to fulfil the commitments expressed in them. Declare your commitment by stating that your organisation is an equal opportunities employer and promoting this. Fulfil your commitment to equality by acting like like an equal opportunities employer by:

  • developing employment policies that reflect the equality codes of practice
  • having recruitment practices that are systematic, fair and objective
  • training staff to make them aware of the policies and how they should apply them
  • ensuring policies and practices are followed consistently across the organisation
  • making reasonable adjustments for people that need them
  • appointing the best person for a job role

You should also consider carrying out a equal pay review to assure yourself that your organisation is providing men and women with equal pay for equal work.

Equality and diversity policies

It's very important to remember that, as a business owner or manager, you may be held responsible for any discriminatory action by your employees if you cannot show that you took such steps as are reasonably practicable to try and prevent such action occurring.

One of the main ways of doing this is to have equality and diversity policies of the kinds noted above, backed up by an action plan to promote the policies and ensure that they are understood and followed across the business.

Your policies should set out your commitment to promote equality and diversity in areas such as recruitment, the working environment and pay to tackle discrimination.

It should also:

  • help your employees understand what you expect of them, eg to treat their colleagues and clients with dignity and respect
  • set out your employees' legal rights and obligations

Read more on equality and diversity policies.

Employment equality plan

The employment equality plan is a tool which you can use to audit your employment and service provision policies and to plan what further work you will undertake to promote good practice. It may also show up areas of your work where you are not currently meeting the requirements of the law.

Read more on how to implement an equality plan.

Equal pay reviews

Many companies have instituted equal pay reviews which aim to ensure that their male and female staff enjoy equal pay for equal work.

Equal pay reviews may be carried out by someone within the company trained to deal with equality issues or they may be conducted by an outside team of specialists.

Download the Equality Commission code of practice on equal pay (PDF, 538K).

You can also see how to set the right pay rates.

Positive action during recruitment

If your analysis of your monitoring data reveals imbalances in applicant or employee numbers in terms of race, sex, etc you can use positive action to encourage members of the under-represented group to take up opportunities for work, eg by having job advertisements stating that applications from, for example, women, or minority ethnic groups will be particularly welcome. However, the advertisement must still state that the final recruitment decision will be based solely on merit.

You should keep in mind that if you make a recruitment decision based on an individual's religion, race, sex, age or sexual orientation, even if that particular group is under represented in your workforce, this is direct discrimination and is likely to be unlawful.

View Equality Commission guidance on taking positive action when recruiting people with disabilities.

View Equality Commission employer guidance on positive action in relation to all other equality grounds.

  • Equality Commission Employer Helpline
    028 90 500 600
  • LRA Workplace Information Service
    03300 555 300
Developed with:
  • Equality Commission