Establishing Equal Opportunities within the Workplace


Equal Opportunities policies are often used within workplaces to protect employees from discriminatory issues. The term “equal opportunities" is a broadly used phrase which promotes the idea that everyone within an organization should have an equal chance to apply and be selected for posts, to be trained and promote and to have their employment terminated equally and fairly. Equality or treating all people equally or as one and the same in relation to employment is equal employment opportunity.

By:-Tharika Piumali

Discrimination When it talks about discrimination is where practiced commonly on the grounds of age, disability, marriage status ethnicity, origin, pregnancy, political belief, race, religion, and sex, etc.factores which are irrelevant to a person’s competence or suitability. These are the main forms of discrimination in workplace.

Race and Religion Discrimination In order to when recruiting candidate to the organization employer should not create the job advertisement asking about candidates’ race or religion. For example assistant accountant vacancy in Habbic Bank and minimum qualifications required are A/L with three credit passes and simple pass for English or any other banking degree. i.e. *applicant should be Muslim (Islamic).This example shows how discriminates occurred in workplace. Therefore employer cannot discriminate candidates or employees when their recruiting or interview. People are from different background and different races and religions. The most important is not the race or religion of the employee; the important is employees’ knowledge and the experience about the particular job.

Employees are assets to the organization. Employees with a wide skills range who can work flexibly are more productive for the business. Employer can only discriminates on the grounds of ability, experience or potential and all employment decisions taken on an individual ability to do a particular job. To make an Equal Opportunities within the workplace employer should not discriminates employees depend on their race, colour or religion. To avoid this sort of discrimination in a work place there is Act called

Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.The Act provides protection against discrimination of an employee or job candidate on the grounds of their religion or belief. Race Relation Act The Act is a law to protect against direct or indirect discrimination of someone on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, citizenship or ethnic origins. The Act applies to the way employers recruit, train, promote and select people in companies.

Age Discrimination is where some organization when they recruiting applicant they are asking specific age category to apply the job. Not only the recruiting sometimes based on the age they gives a promotion or they do not promotes their employees hence of the age.

For example, Peoples Bank, Hatton National Bank, and Sampath Bank are seeking younger employee for their organizations. Also when there are publishing job advertisements they directly ask like Age “between" 18-25 or most probably in Bank of Ceylon they gives first priority to old employees who are in age between 40-45.All these things can be taken as direct age discrimination. Age is not that much of vital in the workplace. Employer should only consider regarding employees working capacity and the skills of employees not the age of employees. Age does not sense any experience or knowledge about the job. Most of the employers are think if employee is age 40 – 45 he/she has a good experience and if employee is age 20 – 25 and he/she does not have any experience, but this is totally unfair who performed well in organization. Sometimes people might go older without having any knowledge and skills. Also employer does not suppose to dismissal or gives early retirement for the employees based on their age, until they leave the organization. Therefore employer should not discriminate their employees based on age. To avoid this sort of situation in a workplace there is act called

Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.Theses regulations apply to all employers in the private and public sectors. These regulations cover employees and other workers, office holders, partners of firms etc. of any age. The regulations affect all areas of employment including; recruitment, terms and conditions, promotion and transfers, the provision of training, provision of benefits, dismissal, retirement ,occupational pensions. The legislation provides for a standard retirement age of 65.Compulsory retirements ages below 65 are normally not justified.

If employer should not consider about these regulations or if employer makes any discrimination due to employee’s age, employee has a right to complain about the employer to the tribunal.

"It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity, medical treatment and social protection, towards viewing persons with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society." Disability Discrimination This where a situation happen to the disabled employees. The disability discrimination is where places employers duties on employees to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of disabled staff, disabled other workers. Employer should not discriminate their employees hence their disabled.

Disabled person is defined as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long –term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and depression, people with cancer, HIV.

For examples; a doctor (Anonymous) worked for private Hospital and suddenly this doctor got a cancer and he had informed to the hospital. But he wanted to continue his work. Hospital unfairly dismissed him due to his cancer. Also can take another example; imagine an employee work as a data entry administrator, if he/she got injured and cannot walk properly. Employer cannot redundant or dismissal the employee due to disability. Employer should not discriminate him or reduce his salary, monetary benefits’ or non-monetary benefits’. Employer can make needed adjustments behalf of the employees. They can provide such as wheelchairs or they can allow that person to do their works at home (home work), and employer should gives first priority for the disabled employees when their recruiting, interviewing, promoting to keep the equal opportunity in the workplace. Disabled is not a reason for a poor performance. Employer not suppose to let their employees to think, that their under disabled discrimination. To avoid these kind of discrimination in work place there are legislative framework to protect those disabled employees/candidate. There is act called

Disability Discrimination Act 2005 Under the act employer cannot refuse to interview, employ, and train or promote a disabled person, simply because of their disability. Employers have a duty under the act to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to enable a disabled person to work or continue working, for example providing wheelchair access to the work location.

Sex Discrimination is where when employer treated differently hence of employees’ sex (female/male) and when different treatment negatively affects in the workplace. Employer cannot discriminate when hiring people for the job. Example when candidate apply for a job as an executive consultant. Although this candidate has experience and excellent qualifications, but this candidate is not hired hence some of the company’s long-time clients are more comfortable dealing with men. When firing the employee, employer cannot fire he/she based on their sex. Also consider when employer promoting, gives benefits, salary, for their employees they cannot discriminate he/she based on their sex directly or indirectly. Employer cannot make any sexual harassment. Sometimes employer may ask or forced to have a sex with him/she. At that time as an employee (he/she) can have right to refuse that invitation. Employer cannot do any sexual harassment or it is totally prohibited to force them.

In Sri Lanka the vast majority of the females are work in apparel (Mass, Brandix, Hidramani) and plantation industries. These women are worked hard for their employers but they are not getting enough money for the real valuable performance. At the same time employers are pay high wages for men. In this situation the employers are discriminates women based on the sex. To avoid this type of discrimination in the work place there is a legislative frame work for that and it called,

Sex Discrimination Act 1975.The act is a law to protect against direct or indirect discrimination of someone of the ground of sex. Sex discrimination includes the way employers recruit, train, promote and dismiss people. Former employees have the right to bring actions against an employer if he/she discriminates against them after they have left. Less favourable treatment of women on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave counts as unlawful sex discrimination. Sexual harassment can include insensitive jokes, displays of sexually explicit material innuendos or lewd comments or gestures.

Pregnancy Discrimination is where the situation Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavourably hence of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Employer cannot discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.

If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave. Employer cannot discriminate due to pregnancy.

Sexual Orientation is where a term frequently used to describe a person’s romantic emotional or sexual attraction to another person. A person attracted to another person of the same sex is said to have a homosexual orientation and may be called gay (both men and women) or lesbian .Individuals attracted to person of the other sex are said to have a heterosexual orientation. Employer cannot discriminate based on the sex orientation or employer cannot discriminate when recruiting, training, promoting and dismissal thus employee is a gay or lesbians and homosexual. To avoid this sort of sexual orientation in a work place there is legislative framework called,

Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 The regulations cover direct or indirect discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and the sexual orientation of someone with whom the person associates or work. The regulation also now provide protection for a civil partner as an equivalent to a married employee for employment rights such as vocational training or paternity leave.

Discrimination is twofold - direct and indirect. Not promoting an employee due to his / her race, religion or gender constitutes direct discrimination. If a prospective employee fails to secure work but if it does not necessarily appear to look discriminatory at face value is the indirect type.

Opportunity 2000 –The main aims of this “to increase the quality of women’s employment opportunities in both private and public sector organizations" Organizations which join Opportunity 2000 (and pay a fee to do so) undertake to set goals for improving women's representation and to monitor progress towards those goals. Goals may be quantitative targets or merely statements of general intent. Members are not monitored against any required standard of achievement. The organization regularly surveys participating organizations and reports on policies and practices.

Equal Opportunity Practices in Workplace In the workplace to make the equality among the employer and employee the following reasons are most important. These are Offering flexible work environment for all employees, To not reserve jobs for female employees, To exclude all questions that are not relevant to the job, Treat female applicants in the same way as male applicants in selection procedure for the same job, Not asking women different questions than men about their domestic arrangements at interview, Not dismissing an employee hence she became pregnant, Offering and allocating overtime fairly between part time and full time employees, Not preventing an employee from returning to the same or similar job after a period of maternity leave. Employer should consider; Men and Women equal hiring, advancement and training opportunities, in addition to equal pay for equal work.

Positive Action Approaches In specific circumstances, an employer may encourage or offer support specifically to men or women, and this 'positive action' is allowed under sex discrimination laws. For examples an employer who has no women lectures in their academy, so therefore employer might offer master degree at a reasonable cost for female lectures to encourage them to apply for the lecturing job.

Equal Opportunities to Managing Diversity Prevent discrimination and equal pay, creating good working environment for both men and women in workplace is defined as an equal opportunities. Managing Diversity is where having the right person for the job regardless of sex, race and disability. It combats prejudice, stereotyping, harassment and other undignified behaviour and creates an environment in which people from all backgrounds can work together harmoniously.