Equal opportunities policy

Introduction

We are committed to providing equal opportunities and avoiding unlawful discrimination. This policy is intended to assist in putting this commitment into practice in all areas of our operations, including employment, volunteering and activities.

We want our environments to be free of harassment and bullying and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We have a separate anti-harassment and bullying policy, which deals with these issues.

We aim is for our officials to be truly representative of all sections of society and our members, and for everyone to feel respected and able to give their best.

When providing information or support we are also committed to all dealing with members, partners, medical professionals and the public equally.

The law

It is unlawful to discriminate directly or indirectly because of a ‘protected characteristic’. The Equality Act 2010 defines the protected characteristics as being:

  • age
  • disability
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy or maternity
  • race (which includes colour, nationality, caste and ethnic or national origins)
  • religion or belief,
  • marriage or civil partnership or neither.

This includes

  • post-employment/volunteering such as when giving a reference
  • dealing with the public or service user in the provision of good or services
  • making reasonable adjustments to overcome barriers due to disability.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments includes changes to processes or the removal, adaptation or alteration of physical features, if they make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of services. In addition, service providers have an obligation to think ahead and address any barriers that may impede disabled people from accessing a service.

Types of unlawful discrimination

  • Direct discrimination is where a person is treated less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic. However, discrimination may be lawful if there is an occupational requirement which is core to a job role and a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  • Indirect discrimination means putting in place, a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified.
  • Harassment is where there is unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic (other than marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity) which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading humiliating or offensive environment. It does not matter whether or not this effect was intended by the person responsible for the conduct.
  • Associative discrimination is where the individual treated less favourably does not have a protected characteristic but is discriminated against because of their association with someone who does, for example, the parent of a disabled child.
  • Perceptive discrimination is where the individual discriminated against or harassed does not have a protected characteristic but they are perceived to have a protected characteristic.
  • Third-party harassment occurs where an official is harassed by third parties such as service users, due to a protected characteristic.
  • Victimisation is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken some form of action relating to the Equality Act, for example, because they have supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act 2010, or because they are suspected of doing so. However, an employee is not protected from victimisation if they acted maliciously or made or supported an untrue complaint.
  • Failure to make reasonable adjustments is where a rule or policy or way of doing things has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic compared with someone who does not have that protected characteristic and the organisation has failed to make reasonable adjustments to enable the disabled person to overcome the disadvantage.

Our commitment

We will:

  • encourage equality and diversity among our officials and membership
  • create an environment free of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination, promoting dignity and respect for all, and where individual differences and the contributions of everyone is recognised and valued
  • base decisions concerning officials, members, suppliers or visitors on merit (apart from in any necessary and limited exemptions and exceptions allowed under the Equality Act 2010).

Equal opportunities in employment and volunteering

We will avoid unlawful discrimination in all aspects of employment and volunteering including:

  • recruitment
  • promotion
  • opportunities for training or other development
  • pay and benefits
  • terms and conditions of employment/volunteering
  • dealing with discipline and grievances
  • dismissal
  • leave for those with caring responsibilities
  • requests for flexible working
  • selection for redundancy.

Role descriptions will avoid any unnecessary requirements (those unrelated to effective performance) that may otherwise have deterred applicants. We will base decisions on objective criteria. We will make reasonable adjustments in recruitment as well as in day-to-day tasking.

Service users, suppliers and others

We will not discriminate unlawfully against service users using or seeking to use the services we provide. If you are bullied or harassed by a service user, suppliers, contractor, visitor or others, or if you witness someone else being bullied or harassed, you are asked to report this to your supervisor who will take appropriate action.

Training

We will provide information and guidance to those involved in recruitment or making other decisions where equal opportunities issues are likely to arise to help them understand their responsibilities and to avoid the risk of discrimination.

We will make opportunities for training, development and progress available to all officials who will be helped and encouraged to develop their full potential, so their talents and resources can be fully utilised to maximise the efficiency of the charity.

Responsibilities

All officials are responsible for supporting the organisation to meet its commitment and avoid unlawful discrimination.

If an official believes they have been discriminated against they should report this it under the grievance procedure.

If an official witnesses what they believe to be discrimination, they should report it to their supervisor as soon as possible.

If others believe they have experienced or witnessed discrimination they should report this it under the complaints procedure.

We take any grievance or complaint seriously and you will not be penalised for raising it, even if it is not upheld, unless it is both untrue and made in bad faith.

Employees and volunteers can be held personally liable as well as, or instead of, the organisation for any act of unlawful discrimination by them. Employees/volunteers who commit serious acts of harassment may be guilty of a criminal offence.

Acts of discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation against employees, volunteers or customers are disciplinary offences and will be dealt with under our disciplinary procedure. Discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation may constitute gross misconduct and could lead to dismissal without notice.

Use of the organisation’s grievance and/or disciplinary procedures does not affect a rights to make a legal challenge within three months of the alleged discrimination.

Monitoring and review

We will monitor the protected characteristics of charity officials and those applying for roles, to help us judge if we are meeting the aims and commitments above. Any such information provided will be used only for these purposes and will be dealt with in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

This policy and resulting activities will be monitored periodically to judge their effectiveness and will be updated in accordance with changes in the law. We will report to the board of trustees on any actions or activities undertaken to improve equality of opportunity.

Date adopted: 5 March 2019

Policy based on an example from NCVO, published 2017