Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is the principle that everyone can have equal access to employment opportunities based on merit, without fear of discrimination or harassment. EEO refers to the standard that all people, regardless of certain characteristics, have the right to receive fair treatment in the workplace.
Equal Employment Opportunity standards are important to implement in your business to promote a positive and inclusive workplace culture.
The Federal Government has passed numerous laws aiming to protect people from discrimination in the workplace. This can include employees of different ages, gender, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, religious belief, work experience, and educational background.
The Fair Work Act 2009 prohibits an employer from taking ‘adverse action’ against an employee (and in some cases independent contractors or prospective employees) for certain reasons.
The general protections deal with:
- Workplace rights
- Industrial rights (including industrial activities and freedom of association)
- Protection from discrimination
- Protection from unlawful termination
- Protection from sham arrangements (relating to the engagement of independent contractors).
Unlawful Discrimination occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee in relation to the aspects mentioned above. However, discrimination does not have to happen on its own, it only has to be a contributing factor – This includes employees who are treated in a manner that is less favourable than other employees in the same or similar circumstances based on their sex, age, race, disabilities.
Indirect discrimination is also unlawful and occurs where there is a requirement or policy that is the same for all and on its face, appears neutral. However, it has a disproportionate impact on certain groups (such as people of a certain sex or age) and that requirement or policy is not reasonable in the circumstances.
An Example of Indirect Discrimination: A policy says that all employees must wear specific clothes without considering that it may be difficult for a pregnant employee to wear those items.
An employer can be vicariously liable for unlawful discrimination or harassment engaged in by its employees, for example, if a manager sexually harasses a co-worker.
An employer must not take adverse action against an employee:
- On a prohibited ground of discrimination
- For participating, or not participating, in industrial activity
- Because the employee is or is not a member of an industrial association.
Policies and Procedures
To ensure that all aspects of care are covered, it’s important to implement policies and procedures for your business. Policies and procedures offer clear guidance to your employees regarding acceptable behaviour, how to report any behaviour that is discriminatory and provide clear guidance on disciplinary action if this behaviour occurs.
An effective Equal Employment Opportunity Policy should include:
- Referenced legislation.
- The purpose of the policy and why EEO is important.
- Who the policy applies to.
- The objectives of the business in relation to Equal Employment.
- Policy Implementation.
- Your workplace culture.
If anyone in your business discovers what could be perceived as barriers within your policies or procedures, it’s imperative that you have appropriate action outlined to have these rectified – Any policies or procedures containing potential barriers will be reviewed and amended.
To get you started implementing your own Equal Employment Opportunity policy, you can download our template at the bottom of this page.
What can you do to promote Equal Employment Opportunities?
Spending time, communicating with, and providing an example for your employees is one of the most practical things you can do to ensure EEO in your organisation. This allows you to empower your teams with knowledge and training about what EEO entails, the EEO policies you have in place, their role in upholding these policies, confronting unconscious biases and dispelling misconceptions, and plant the seed that will encourage them to be more accepting of a diverse workplace. See our blog on Diversity in the Workplace for more information about this topic.
- Education and training are the keys to dispersing the inclusive culture that comes along with the integration of Equal Employment Opportunity principles.
- Take any complaints of discrimination and harassment seriously, no matter how trivial or unbelievable they may seem at first glance.
- Include diversity comments in your weekly team meetings as you do with Work, Health and Safety.
- Make the action for the accused fit the crime – If you over-penalise an employee, or under-penalise them, the rest of our workforce may receive mixed messages about your commitment to fairly and appropriately handle matters of discrimination and harassment.
Every time concerns are raised about unlawful discrimination or any sort of behaviour that is unacceptable, managers have an obligation to take appropriate action. If an employee asks that no action be taken, a manager is still required to consider the nature and seriousness of the alleged conduct in determining whether action is taken.
Retaining and engaging teams is about creating an environment they want to stay in – One where they feel heard, included, and where they can be themselves. Inclusion needs to exist in the DNA of a business.
Modern managers play an essential role in exhibiting inclusive and empathic behaviours that will inspire employees to do the same. Believe in the power of inclusion and try to live it uncompromisingly day-to-day. The future of work is now, and it’s inclusive.
To see further how dita Solutions can help you improve your workplace culture by building effective policies and procedures, contact us here.
Download Our Free Policy
Download our free and customisable Equal Employment Opportunity Policy. Our Policy provides clear guidance to help you get started with implementing this policy for your business.