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Introduction to this document

Equal opportunities policy

There’s no specific legal requirement for you to have an equal opportunities policy. However, discrimination because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation are all unlawful and implementing an equal opportunities policy statement will help demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to prevent discrimination from occurring.

Unlawful discrmination

Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s unlawful to discriminate against an employee or job applicant because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. You will also be vicariously liable for any acts of unlawful discrimination committed by your employees against other employees in the course of their employment unless you can show that you took all reasonable steps to prevent those acts from occurring. As there’s no limit on the amount of compensation an employee can receive for unlawful discrimination, and it can include compensation for injury to feelings, it’s important that you take equal opportunities seriously. Putting in place our Equal Opportunities Policy statement - and ensuring you follow its terms and give regular training to your staff and managers on their rights and obligations relating to equal opportunities - means that not only is it likely to assist in reducing the risk of unlawful discrimination occurring in the first place, but also you have a much greater chance of being able to successfully rely on the statutory “reasonable steps” defence. Be aware that just having a policy statement won’t be enough - it’s essential that the policy is disseminated to all staff and that they are given appropriate training to support the policy.