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Equal opportunities are very important in the modern workplace. Providing equal opportunities involves providing the same opportunities to all the employees and prospective employees regardless of their sex, age, disabilities, ethnic origins, sexual orientations etc. Equal opportunities allow the employee to have rights therefore the employer is unable to take advantage, discriminate or manipulate staff. Employers have an element of power over their employees but by having the law on the side of the employees, employers therefore need to think twice before discriminating in any form. Organisations will need to ensure that there is no unlawful or unfair discrimination. Employees are not stupid – a company that behaves badly to one employee will do the same to another, and then one day it could be them.

In the workplace there should be no form of discrimination. Alleged cases of discrimination can be taken to an industrial tribunal or a body such as the Race Relations Board.

"The prejudiced person is capable of rationalising the situation in a such a way as to conclude that the person he or she met unique in some respects and is unlike stereotype."

(McKenna 1994)

Employee View

When you start work you have several expectations. For one thing, you expect to get paid, unless you are a voluntary worker. You also expect to be paid a fair wage in relation to other people in similar jobs and to receive money at specified times. You expect to be treated fairly and reasonably by both your boss and by others who work within the same organisation. You expect to work in a clean and safe environment and not be asked to undertake dirty or dangerous jobs for which you have received no training or protective clothing. You expect to have holidays and to work a reasonable number of hours each week.

As an Employee you have a right to:

§ To be given a written statement of the terms and conditions of your employment

§ Be allowed to choose whether or not you join a trade union

§ Not to be discriminated against on grounds of race or sex

§ To be paid (unless you are a voluntary worker)

§ To work in an environment which conforms to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

As an Employee you have a responsibility to:

The contract of employment sets out the terms and conditions under which an employee will work. The contract will and should make it fairly clear what the organisation expects from the employee. It is very important for an employee to study his or her contract and to sure in keeping within its terms.

§ Comply with the terms and conditions of your contract of employment

§ Comply with and health and safety regulations and co-operate with your employer in his or her attempts to provide a safe working environment

Business View

From the point if view of self-interest this matter is crucial to business success. The demand for new skills and variety in the future is likely to place organisations in a seller’s market. Skills particularly in science, technology and human relationship areas are likely to be in short supply. Partly this arises because there is not a finite absolute level of skill required. For example quality and customer service. There is simply no limit to the quality that can build a product or service; there is no limit to courtesy and service. It follows therefore that however much factors improve, the ‘best’ will always be in short supply.

It is therefore important that the organisation does not necessarily limit itself in the search for people of ability and quality. It follows that all groups within and outside the organisation should be seen as providing its potential needs. Equal opportunities makes business sense.


A growing number of companies are adopting some form of targeting as part of their equal opportunity programmes as a way of ensuring progress.

Targeting can bring open hostility about the envisaged changes to the surface. New methods to encourage disadvantaged groups to improve employment or developmental opportunities can lead to legitimate criticism. This would be particularly the case if targeting led to positive discrimination in recruitment, which is illegal in the UK. There must be caution in this area. Managers would have to pay particular attention to the legislative framework in what can be a fluid area both in the terms of new acts or interpretation of existing law by the courts.

It is unlawful to require candidates for jobs to meet criteria which are more difficult for different racial groups or either sex to achieve, unless the criteria are specifically a requirement of the job. It is the establishment and maintenance of fair and justifiable selection criteria within the framework of targeting that can form the key focus of an equal treatment policy. The kind of targets would refer to recruitment levels, promotion levels and training to be taken up separately by the appropriate classification.

In summary the target is the result of the organisations various policies, that will be expected to be achieved over a period of time. The targets are not quotas and must not lead to unlawful activity. This is not an easy dividing line and care and attention would be required to separate the pre-selection process from the point of selection itself. It is for example, possible to encourage women to take up engineering or science as a career. However, while this extra effort can be directed at women to encourage greater numbers to apply there must be no discrimination at the point of actual selection based on race, creed and sex.

Targeting makes business sense if it results in a better use of talent available within the company, opens up new sources of external recruitment or simply projects the company as a fair employer. Companies who readily accept targeting in other areas of their business may find difficulty in explaining why targeting achievement equal opportunities policies is not appropriate.

Trade Unions – Negotiations Through Trade Unions

Employees who are members of trade unions have the security of knowing that they can call on the services of skilled negotiators. Unions are used to handling grievance procedures, and will have considerable expertise in this matter. Unions will generally negotiate on your behalf after first taking as much evidence as possible to support a claim or assertion.

Management Of Diversity

"The management of diversity goes beyond equal opportunity. Instead of merely allowing a greater range of people the opportunity to ‘fit in’ or to be an honorary ‘large, white male’, the concept of diversity embodies the belief that people should be valued for their differences and variety. Diversity is perceived to enrich organisation’s human capital. Whereas equal opportunity focuses on various disadvantaged groups, the management of diversity is about individuals. It entails a minimisation of cloning in selection and promotion procedures and a model of resourcing aimed at finding flexible employees".

(Price 1997)

Managing Diversity - A Description

Managing diversity is based on the concept that people should be valued as individuals for reasons related to business interest, as well as for moral and social reasons. It recognises that people from different backgrounds can bring fresh ideas and perceptions.

Managing diversity successfully helps organisations to nurture creativity and innovation and thereby to tap hidden capacity for the improved competitiveness.

The management of diversity requires action to ensure organisations have an open workplace culture based on trust and mutual respect. In such a culture people value each other with dignity. Likewise, differences in personal backgrounds and characteristics do not prejudice decisions about the suitability of individuals for employment or training. Different views and ideas are welcomed.

Managing diversity requires equality to be dealt with in a strategic, co-ordinated way. It broadens the concept of equal opportunities beyond the issues covered by law. It welcomes difference and seeks to avoid bias on the basis of issues which unfairly block personal development. It recognises that people have different abilities to contribute to organisational goals and performance and that action might be needed to give everyone a chance to contribute and compete on equal terms.

The reasons why diversity matters in business can be sub-divided into six major areas:

§ Improving customer care and increasing market share

§ Developing organisational ethics and values

§ Enhancing people management practices

§ Reflecting changes in society and personal expectations

§ Complying with legislation

§ Keeping up with the best practice to attract and retain talent and enhance competitiveness

Diversity and the Organisation

"Fairness, justice or whatever you call it – it’s essential and most companies don’t have it. Everybody must be judged on his performance, not on his looks or his manners or personality or the he is related to."

(Townsend 1970)

Two fundamental perspectives are identifiable which can be related to different HRM models. (Goss 1994)

§ Human capital - ‘Artificially’ blocking the progress of any group results in less than optimal use of an organisations human capital. Discrimination is irrational since its limits the resource value of employees. This view is compatible with ‘hard’ or ‘free market HRM’.

§ Social justice - A moral or ethical interest in social equality, compatible with ‘soft’ or ‘social market HRM’.

Straws Model of Equal Opportunities

(Equal Opportunities IPM 1989)

Level 3 - Equal Opportunities as Equal Chance

Level 2 - Equal Opportunities as Equal Access

Level 1 - Equal Opportunities as Equal Share

The model above is a good way to start analysing an organisation.

Goss sees the human capital perspective as fluctuating and opportunistic. " Capable of being adopted or abandoned, in line with legal or economic expediency" (1994)

Organisations benefit from a deep, principled commitment to equality of opportunity because it leads to:

§ A diverse workforce which enriches ideas and perspectives within an organisation

§ Imaginative ideas to assist total quality management

§ Recruitment or promotion of the talented people

§ An environment which encourages employees to stay

§ Improved motivation and commitment which raises productivity

§ Reduced wastage and recruitment costs which increase productivity

(Ross and Schneider 1992)

People Management

To be competitive, organisations need to derive the best contributions and the maximum commitment from all individual employees and teams. Organisations need to recruit and retain the best talent. This can not be done by relying on recruitment from only part of the labour market.

Organisations that focus on equality and diversity are able to:

§ Attract and recruit people from a wider range of talented candidates

§ Retain the best talent

§ Benefit the lower turnover and absenteeism

§ Demonstrate greater organisational flexibility to respond to change

This has a positive benefit for the build-up of competence at all levels and in this way contributes to better business performance. Other reported benefits include better decision-making, improved teamwork, greater creativity, better customer service skills and improved quality of output.

Examples of Organisations Point of View of Equal Opportunities

Rolls Royce Military Aero Engines Limited

"It is becoming apparent that customers in addition to demanding quality products and services from their suppliers, are taking an increasing interest in the way suppliers manage their business. In the field of equal opportunities customers are starting to want assurances that the appropriate policies are in place and operate effectively. This gives them confidence that suppliers are managed professionally in all aspects of business and not just those directly associated with the production of a quality product or service."

Nationwide Building Society

"The Nationwide Building Society is firmly committed to remaining a building society, focused exclusively on the needs of the customer. We believe that meeting the needs of a diverse customer base requires a highly skilled, competent and flexible workforce, who all feel that Nationwide is achieving this through the ethos of working foe equality of opportunity, supported by a broad range of policies, practices and procedures which aim to recognise individual contribution and performance, develop each individual’s capability and give everyone an equal opportunity of using their talent and releasing their potential. Managing the diversity of our customers and employees is and exciting and rewarding challenge for us all."

NSK-RHP Europe Ltd

"NSK-RHP is committed to equal opportunities as the foundation of its business principles, openness, trust, recognition, helping people develop, enthusiasm, teamwork, communication, fairness and courtesy."

UK Legislation’s

Business need is without doubt the best and most effective motivator, but companies also have to ensure that they work correctly with the legislation framework. In the are of preventing discrimination, tighter legislative control can be expected. Most countries have a substantial legal framework of anti-discriminatory legislation aimed at preventing discrimination on the grounds of race, creed or sex. Governments have a role to play through legislation to prevent discrimination and organisations need to focus on the management of diversity. Making the most of a wide pool of talent. Strategists should consider equal opportunities policies, targeting and positive development of underrepresented groups, people managers can monitor their activities and increase awareness to minimise discrimination. Below is the list of the United Kingdom’s legislation.

United Kingdom Legislation’s

Statutory Interventions into Employer-Employee Relations since 1961

1961 Factories Act

1963 Contracts of Employment Act (consolidated 1978 )

1964 Industrial Training Act (defunct - M Thatcher)

1965 Race Relations Act and Equal Pay Act

1965 Redundancy Payments Act (consolidated 1978)

1965/7 Prices and Incomes Policy

1968 Royal Commission on Trades Unions and Employers Associations

1969 In Place of Strife

1970 Equal Pay Act

1971 Industrial Relations Act (repealed 1974) Industrial Relations Code of Practice

1973 Electricity supply industry stoppage - the 3 day week

1974 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act

1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act

from 1975 on Health and Safety Representatives RegulationsControl over Substances Hazardous to HealthRisk AssessmentProtective equipment directive 1989VDU and workstation directive 1989Protection of pregnant workers 1992Working time directive 1994

1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (amended 1978)

1975 Employment Protection ActACAS Disciplinary Code

1975 Sex Discrimination Act - amended 1984

1976 Race Relations Act

1978 Social Contract and Winter of discontent

1978 Employment Protection (Consolidation)

1980 Employment Act

1982 Employment Act

1984 Trade Union Act

1984 Data Protection Act

1986 Wages Act

1980s/early 90s Local Government Acts (Compulsory Competitive Tendering) Re-structuring of the Health ServicePrivatisationTraining and Enterprise CouncilsNational Council for Vocational QualificationsInvestors in People

1988 Employment Act

1989 Employment Act

1990 Employment Act

1991 Maastricht Treaty and the Social Chapter

1993 Trade Union Reform & Employment Rights Act

1995 Disability Discrimination Act

1996 Employment Rights Act (ERA)

1996 Industrial Tribunals Act 1996 (c. 17)

1996 Asylum and Immigration Act(c. 49)

1998 Data Protection Act c. 29

1998 Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act c. 8

1998 Human Rights Act c. 42

1998 National Minimum Wage Act c. 39


Equal Opportunities/Managing Diversity or Individual Freedom?

The very term ‘Equal Opportunities’ is based on a misconception. People are not equal not can they have equal opportunities. Native talents vary from person to person and it is an illusion to think otherwise.

Moreover the human resource manager spends a great deal of time discriminating between one employee and another. Differences between employees abound the terms of skills, attitudes, human relations, education and so on. People are not equal and therefore their opportunities for advancement or achievement of personal aims will differ markedly.

The key issues for human resourcing is that the respect for people requires that they are free to stay and use their skills and abilities in the way they want. Organisations cannot provide equal opportunities but they can provide open access to selection processes and ensure that discrimination between candidates is not based on unfair or unlawful factors.

Equal opportunities is important in companies. First an organisation will want to ensure that it meets any statutory provision. Secondly, it may wish to project an image as a good employer to demonstrate that it puts faith in its people both to attract and to retain employees and also as part of a customer-oriented strategy.

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