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equality and diversity

How to write an inclusive Equality Policy   

Developing an inclusive Equality Policy is one of the key factors in creating a sustainable organisation that reflects the rich diversity of society and ensures equality of opportunity for everyone involved.

On this page:

Policy statement
Objectives
Procedures
Monitoring, evaluation and review
The case for a specific policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers and service users

An Equality Policy is a written statement showing that your organisation actively opposes discrimination. It demonstrates your commitment to making your organisation a fully accessible and inclusive place that welcomes and respects diversity.

All organisations must be aware of their legal obligations under the various Acts of Parliament dealing with discrimination.

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976 (and Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

However, a robust Equality Policy should go beyond legislative requirements and include types of discrimination not currently covered by law. It is good practice to develop a policy that explicitly includes all types of unfair discrimination and takes a radical approach to challenging prejudice, harassment and discrimination across every aspect of your organisation.

Discrimination usually arises from a lack of awareness and experience rather than deliberate intent. Each organisation needs a policy that will reflect its own ways of working, its community and constituency, activities and size. By examining in detail how you operate, you will learn to recognise how and where discrimination is manifesting itself and be able to deal with each instance.

Equality Policies should not be produced by the management committee alone. Take this opportunity to engage users, employees, volunteers and everyone involved with the organisation to help you to develop a policy that is genuinely inclusive and comprehensive. Including everyone within your organisation in the development of the policy will make it easier to engage them on equality issues and will make implementation easier.

Your Equality Policy should cover:

  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Management committee / board
  • Members (if applicable)
  • Service users
  • Potential users and the general public

    The policy should cover all aspects of your organisation and its work.

    You policy should cover the following types of discrimination:

  • Gender (explicitly including transgender and transsexual identity)
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Sexual identity or orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual)
  • Age
  • Relationship or marital status
  • Disability
  • HIV status
  • Background
  • Faith or religious belief
  • Physical appearance
  • Political opinions

    Your policy should have four distinct parts:

  • A statement of intent to challenge discrimination and to take constructive steps to encourage participation
  • A list of objectives showing what you want to achieve
  • Procedures to put the policy’s aims and objectives into action
  • Processes for monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the policy

Policy statement

This shows that your organisation recognises that certain groups of people are discriminated against in society, that it is opposed to such discrimination and will take steps to combat it. A possible equality policy statement could be:

[Organisation name] recognise that many individuals and communities experience unlawful and unfair discrimination and oppression on the grounds of their gender (including transgender and transsexual people), relationship or marital status, race or ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation (because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual), age, HIV status, language, background, faith or religious belief, physical appearance and political opinions. We believe that equality for all is a basic human right and actively oppose all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination. We celebrate the diversity of society and are striving to promote and reflect that diversity within this organisation.

You can include this statement, or elements of it, in your publicity and job advertisements.

Objectives

These will vary from one organisation to another but could include:

  • Ensuring no-one within the organisation or using its services experiences discrimination or harassment
  • Ensuring that all workers, volunteers and management committee receive training on issues around equality and diversity
  • Broadening representation on the management committee to reflect the diversity of society
  • Ensuring services take into account difference and diversity and are accessible to all who need them

Procedures

In drawing up a code of procedures you will need to:

  • Identify where in your organisation discrimination occurs and what form it takes
  • Look at the structure of the management committee and any other decision making bodies
  • Set out procedures and codes of conduct (minimum standards of behaviour), making sure that everyone knows and understands them
  • Develop procedures for dealing with any breaches of these codes – this could take the form of specific grievance procedures and harassment and bullying policies
  • Ensure that you conform to anti-discrimination legislation in the recruitment, selection and promotion of staff
  • Examine and where necessary re-assess conditions of service and flexible working
  • Establish a training programme, providing equality and diversity training for everyone within the organisation, where possible, on an annual basis
  • Identify any necessary improvements for physical access and working arrangements

    It is good practice to allocate responsibility for the tasks associated with each of the objectives to people within the organisation. Make sure that everyone is familiar with the procedures and what is expected of them in implementation.

    Management

    The management of your organisation must reflect your commitment to equality and diversity. Your management committee should, as far as possible, reflect the diversity of the community and of society. A good practice example is to look at the committee as a community management board, where you seek to ensure that a diversity of experience, background, identity and opinion is represented. The way you appoint new committee members is extremely important. Vacancies should be advertised widely (adverts should include details of your commitment to equality and diversity) and new members should be elected rather than co-opted or nominated directly. Decision making must always take place in formal meetings, and not as a result of informal discussions elsewhere which exclude fellow committee members. This includes any sub-committees as well as the full committee meetings. Meetings should be held at times and venues that are suitable for all.

    Training

    The management committee and workers will require some induction and training to assist in the implementation of the Equality Policy and in some cases to learn new skills. it is important that sufficient time is given to all areas of discrimination and oppression and so it is advisable to develop a training programme that allows at least ½ to 1 day to each issue. The areas that should be covered are:

  • Understanding of oppression – this would include an exploration of individuals own experiences of oppression and discrimination
  • Introduction to terminology – this enables a greater understanding of different types of discrimination and forms of prejudice
  • Action to be taken to challenge discrimination – this could include looking at ways in which your organisation directly or indirectly discriminates and an introduction to the new policy

    Training should cover all of the types of discrimination included in your Equality Policy.

    Harassment

    You have a duty to prevent bullying and harassment within your organisation. Your policy should include a clear statement that bullying, harassment and victimisation will not be tolerated, examples of unacceptable behaviour, measures you will take to prevent it and how complaints will be dealt with.

    Grievance and disciplinary procedures

    A formal grievance procedure enables workers to bring a grievance to the organisation’s attention, and also appeal against a disciplinary penalty.

Monitoring, evaluation and review

Equality and diversity procedures must be monitored continually, statistical information collected and the results evaluated. This enables you to see how the policy is working and make any necessary revisions. Information should be collected about recruitment and about the composition of the workforce, both paid and voluntary. This can present problems as workers are under no obligation to provide information about their race, disability or sexual orientation, and the collection and handling of such information is restricted by the Data Protection Act 1998. One way to gather this information is through anonymous confidential staff surveys, which can be distributed annually and can focus on issues around equality, diversity and discrimination. Larger organisations have found this method to be an effective way to gather important information about their performance in the area of equality.

Monitoring the services you provide will show how effective your organisation is in meeting the needs of the community. You could choose to do this in a number of ways, including the use of service user questionnaires or community needs assessments (which will enable you to engage with individuals or groups who do not currently use your services).

Your policy should state who will be responsible for monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the policy and procedures and how often checks will be made. You should also identify who is responsible for analysing the information collected and put forward proposals for revising procedures.

The case for a specific policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers and service users

Your organisation may already have an Equality Policy but would like to do more to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If this is the case you could include a statement detailing your commitment to combating discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation or transgender identity as part of your wider Equality Policy. A possible LGBT equality statement could be:

[Organisation name] is committed to combating discrimination in all its forms. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face discrimination, harassment and prejudice as part of their everyday life. Our Equality Policy highlights that such activity is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any form.

Any employee, volunteer or management team member found to be discriminating against and/or harassing anyone within the organisation because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity will face disciplinary action, in accordance with our Policies and Procedures.

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