What is an Equal Opportunities Policy?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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An equal opportunities policy is a set of regulations that provides everyone with a fair chance. Such policies are usually developed to prevent discrimination in the workplace. They dictate the rights and protections of both employees and prospective employees. It is common to find that these policies are formulated based on federal legislation.

Both history and current events prove that, when there are not regulations preventing it, some people will determine whom to hire, whom to promote, and how much people should be paid based on factors such as race, sex, and religion. Doing so is not only unfair, but it has also been found to have a wide range of adverse effects on society. The effects of discrimination in the workplace can be so adverse that in most developed countries there is a broad range of anti-discrimination legislation at the national level.

One problem with federal discrimination laws is that they are often contained in different bodies of legislation. Another issue is that even when laws exist, there is often a need for different efforts to implement them. As such, it is common to find that lower-level governments and private sector employers will develop an equal opportunities policy that encompasses the federal laws in a more collective matter. In some instances, these policies include regulations that are more stringent than those outlined by federal legislation.


One of the major benefits of an equal opportunities policy is that it commonly provides a means for problems to be handled more conveniently. If, for example, discrimination legislation was left at the federal level, a person with a complaint would generally be required to either contact the appropriate federal authorities or to file a lawsuit in federal court. If lower levels of governments also implement an equal opportunities policy, then individuals do not have to take their problems through a federal process.

Likewise, when an employer develops an equal opportunities policy, he shows a commitment to fairness. More importantly, he gives himself the authority to address problems that may arise. This can make handling the matter even more convenient because the complaining party may not need to go through any legal process at all. This system also acts as a more efficient deterrent because the complaining party may have the authority to raise the issue at several levels simultaneously.

When an equal opportunities policy is developed, the consequences for violations are generally outlined too. In most cases, instead of having strict guidelines, there is a possibility that a person could be punished in several ways. Depending on the severity of the violation, in some jurisdictions there is a possibility that a person could face serious criminal penalties for gross violations of an equal opportunities policy.


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