Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What's the point of Equal Opportunities statements?

Does an organisation’s statement of commitment to Equal Opportunities actually mean anything any more?

Let’s use the current (rather thin, it has to be said …) issue of People Management magazine as a testbed for this question.

Recruiting for HR Professionals are:

Three Housing Associations
All three carry the Positive About Disabled People (“Two Ticks” logo)
One goes further and stresses that they are “committed to equality of opportunity … welcome applications from all sectors of the diverse community..”

A Public Sector Security Organisation
They “welcome applications from all parts of the Community”

A Further Education College and a Local Authority
Both carry the Positive About Disabled People logo and are “an equal opportunities employer”

A Public Sector Organisation
They carry the Positive About Disabled People logo, are “committed to Equal Opportunities … particularly welcome applications from members of minority ethnic groups and people with disabilities who are currently underrepresented in our workforce”

Three Private Sector Professional Services Organisations and one County Council
No statement of commitment to Equal Opportunities

A few deliberately provocative questions:
  • With the raft of equal opportunities legislation that is now enshrined in law in the UK, do statements of commitment to equality of employment actually carry any weight any more?
  • Is there any reason to believe that the three organisations who do not affirm any commitment to equal opportunities are any less serious about the issue than those that do?
  •  If you were either (for example) disabled or a member of an “underrepresented group” would you be more likely to apply for a role with an organisation that publicly states its commitment to equal opportunities than one that doesn’t? 
  • Hasn’t it actually got to the stage now that an expectation that an organisation is committed to equality of opportunity and diversity is as basic as one that they are committed to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees?”


  1. Well to an extent I agree that a bland statement that an organisation is an equal opportunities employer or is committed to equality does not tell you much. Under current legislation all an organisation can do if a group is underrepresented is 'encourage' members of that group to apply. However just bunging that at the bottom of a job advert doesn't seem that much of an encouragement to me and I agree that is seems a bit old fashioned.

    The Disability two tick scheme is different however because part of this is a guaranteed interview. If you have the minimum requirements for the job you are guaranteed an interview if you have a disability. This is positive discrimination (permitted under the DDA) and is worth drawing attention to in a job advert.

  2. Perhaps with age comes cynicism but a statement on an advert or a logo proclaiming certain values is not worth the paper it is written on if the values it purports are not engrained within the culture of the organisation concerned.

    Who puts together the equal opportunity and diversity statement? Who works to gain accreditation from particular bodies? Well, in my experience, it’s normally some corporate team who are significantly removed from the coal face of the business. Until such time as the wise words that make up the public statement and feature in the glossy diversity brochure are translated into the actions of all employees then they are merely statements of good intent.

    I do think that we are at the point where commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity should be a basic assumption. Maybe (and here’s a provocative view) the organisation that emblazons this on their advert ‘doth protest too much’. Might be worth a look at the tribunal claims in the recent past!!


  3. This is an arrant question of practicality and courage,albeit any forthcoming legal invitation or problem that may arise. For an organization like Lloyds TSB to openly support equal opportunity and Race for Opportunity initiative nevertheless,approves of their courage and practicality even if they don't achieve it in-house hundred percent.

    Gillette is not branding Henry and Co. because they have achieved efficiency and the apogee of business success,but they are just creating an image for attraction and nomenclatural breakthrough into the market.Also to brand your company an equal opportunity company though does not mean you are practicing it,yet symbolizes a courageous step in the direction of optimism and positivism..

    And this is all leading towards competitive advantage..

    chinonso Ndukwe MBA CIPD