Equal Opportunity in the Workplace: Tips on Where to Start

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Equal opportunity in the workplace initially seems like a simple concept: you hire the best person for the job regardless of their race, gender or religion and treat all employees fairly.

But in fact, it goes further than this. Discrimination comes in many forms – from treating someone who cares for children unfavourably compared to someone who has no caring responsibilities, to failing to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s role to help them return to work after an injury. As HR Managers and business owners, it’s your job to put measures in place to make sure discrimination doesn’t happen on your watch.   

Taking some simple steps to prevent and address discrimination will mean your workplace is more harmonious, friendly and productive.

What can you do to prevent discrimination in your workplace?

1. Have a written policy

Different businesses promote equal opportunity in their workplaces in different ways, but having a policy in-line with the law (both for your state and the federal laws) is usually a good place to start.

Your policy will outline the behaviour you expect from your employees and in turn will explain what your employees can expect from you as their employer.

Your equal opportunity policy could include information describing unacceptable workplace behaviour, and set out how to deal with it if it does occur. You can cover issues including:

  • discrimination
  • sexual harassment
  • bullying
  • victimisation
  • what to do if employees witness or experience any of the above
  • how employee complaints will be handled by the business

2. Review and rate your workplace

As with all policies, your equal opportunity policy and the procedures that go with it are living documents, open for regular review. There are a number of government agencies that can help if you’re not sure where to start, or if you want to check how your business compares to others around Australia.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s aim is to promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces.  They provide advice and practical tools to help you improve gender equality in your workplace. They also help employers with more than 100 employees who are required to submit annual reports on workplace gender equality.

The Human Rights Commission also has a Workplace Cultural Diversity Tool which they describe as a “How-to guide to workplace cultural diversity” to help you make the most of your culturally diverse workforce.

3. Train your employees

Educating your employees on equal opportunity and acceptable workplace behaviour is crucial to ensure everyone understands their obligations to the company and their co-workers.

There are many ways of doing this, but you should do at least two (or more) of the following things:

  • Send your equal opportunity policy to all staff and instruct them to read it.
  • Hold group sessions about equal opportunity and discrimination at work.
  • Include your equal opportunity policy in your induction training.
  • Create online training to teach employees their rights and obligations.

However you decide to educate your staff, make sure they understand their responsibilities and obligations and what can happen if they behave inappropriately or breach your equal opportunity policy or the law.

Ready to train your staff but not sure where to start? CourseGenius has just released an online course in Equal Opportunity in the Workplace to make it easier for you to train your employees and foster a harmonious work environment. 

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