Guide to Creating a UK Equal Opportunities Policy

08 February 2023 | HR & Employment

Guide to Creating a UK Equal Opportunities Policy

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This Insight is #12 in our Employment Handbook series, keep an eye out for more.

As a matter of law, UK employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship.  

As a matter of good practice, and often a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute, are the non-contractual policies and procedures that should be included in a employee handbook.

The handbook can sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.

What is an equal opportunities policy?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation in employment, which includes an employer’s actions during recruitment and after an employee has left employment.

Now, there isn’t an equal opportunities UK legislation to make it a legal requirement for an employer to have an equal opportunities policy, but it’s wise for all employers to have one to set out what they do to discourage discriminatory attitudes and behaviours. 

This should help make job applicants and employees feel confident about equality of opportunity.

What should be included in an equal opportunities policy?

The policy should include a statement of the employer’s commitment to equal opportunity for all job applicants and workers and set out the minimum standard the employer expects its employees to meet. 

The policy will also usually explain the rights and responsibilities of everyone to whom the policy applies as well as making clear the procedures for:

  • Dealing with concerns and complaints
  • What happens if an employee breaches the policy
  • Who is responsible for the policy
  • What monitoring and review procedures are in place to ensure the policy is adhered to.

The policy may also give a few examples of what is considered to be unacceptable behaviour, for example certain behaviour at afterwork events.

An equal opportunities policy should apply to all aspects of employment including:

  • Recruitment
  • Terms and conditions of work
  • Training and development
  • Promotion
  • Performance
  • Grievances
  • Discipline
  • Treatment of workers when their contract ends.

Tip! Make sure that you don’t promise to do anything that you don’t intend to keep to or that you can’t realistically enforce.

Your responsibility as an Employer

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. An employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can an employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in an employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.

Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the Employment and HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Its important to include a UK Equal Opportunities Policy in your Employee Handbook and adhere to it to the letter to protect yourself from potential breaches that can lead to the business getting sued. To make sure you’re safe, get in touch with our team of Employment Law solicitors on 0330 912 8338.

This article and the policy are provided for general information purposes only and you should take specialist advice in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that what we say is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

Need help? Get advice from one of our team of HR and Employment Law experts

Where to find us

We have offices in Bury St. Edmunds, Sudbury and London.

Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

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