What can an employer do to ensure its workers are being given equal opportunities?

Employers can use questionnaires and other forms of staff monitoring to determine to what extent their workers are being given equal opportunities. For example, they might seek to find out: 

  • How many people at work describe themselves as having a disability?
  • What proportion of the workforce is female and / or non-white?
  • How do pay levels compare between different sections of the workforce, based on any of the protected characteristics (i.e. age, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and disability)? 
  • Are people getting equal pay for equal work done?
  • Are women with childcare responsibilities getting the opportunity to work flexibly?

While action may be desirable in order to stop organisations becoming ‘male, pale and stale’, positive discrimination is illegal, so redressing the balance may take time (for example, there may be a stated policy of recruiting a more diverse workforce, but an ethnic minority candidate could not be recruited before a better qualified, more suitable white candidate without discriminating against the latter).  For more details on this area of legislation, see the Acas guide Equality and Discrimination: understand the basics (PDF, 415KB).

Organisations seeking to tackle conscious and unconscious prejudices among their workers might also consider staff awareness training to foster an equal opportunities culture.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.