As an employer, it needs to be your priority to treat all employees fairly, in order to foster a safer working environment. Diversity within the workplace offers a plethora of benefits, by inviting diverse perspectives, fresh outlooks and a new range of strengths to create a more considered workplace. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) refers to the right of all employees to be treated equally and fairly throughout their respective roles. This means they receive equal access to their employment opportunities because of their ability to complete the intended job. This Business Kitz blog will walk you through the best ways to promote Equal Employment Opportunity in your workplace.
How Does Equal Employment Opportunity Work?
In Australia, there are currently several legal models that have been implemented to prevent unfair disadvantages for employees. Individuals can experience discriminatition based on their race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social and financial status, and mental and physical well-being. The state-specific legislations are the primary source of the Equal Employment Opportunity obligations in which employers must seriously consult when hiring new staff. These legislations (as outlined listed below) aim to tackle any type of harassment – whether it be direct or indirect.
Direct discrimination refers to when an individual or group is treated unfairly based on a characteristic such as race or sex. For example, someone is mistreated or overlooked because of the colour of their skin. Alternatively, indirect discrimination refers to a policy, practice or rule which may apply to everyone but can have a worse effect on marginalised or disadvantaged people.
Australian Legislations for Equal Employment Opportunity
To further elaborate from above, the Australian Federal Government has progressed many interstate laws aiming to protect people from workplace discrimination:
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is responsible for enforcing federal EEO and anti-discrimination legislation. If you believe you have been discriminated against, or someone’s actions towards you violates this legislation, you can lodge a formal complaint with the AHRC.
Although Commonwealth, state and territory EEO laws generally overlap to prohibit the same type of discrimination, exceptions under one law may not be covered as an exception under the other law. To ensure you are seeking accurate and relevant information about EEO, please refer to the following state or territory legislation:
- Anti-Discrimination Act (NSW) 1977;
- Equal Opportunity Act (SA) 1984;
- Equal Opportunity Act (WA) 1984
- Discrimination Act (ACT) 1991;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (QLD) 1991;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (NT) 1992;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (Tas) 1998; and
- Equal Opportunity Act (VIC) 2010;
For further information, below are the different types of discrimination laws that have been passed:
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth);
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth);
- Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth);
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth); and
- Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)
Failure to comply with these EEO regulations can result in facing legal punishments and fines for employers and the companies involved.
Why should employers care about Equal Employment Opportunity?
Employers who encourage EEO attract a more diverse calibre of potential employees, enhance worker productivity and develop a safer workplace environment.
It should be acknowledged that employers are legally responsible for any discrimination or harassment of employees that occurs within the company. However, if a discriminatory claim by an employee was presented, the employer may not be held accountable if they have followed the necessary steps to resolve the issue.
What should I consider when hiring new employees?
Hiring new employees can be a whirlwind process, especially if you need someone to fill the role immediately. However, it is also important to understand the needs of the candidates to provide better equal opportunities in the long run.
For minority groups such as POC (People of Colour), employers should consider learning more about their culture, as well as being aware of certain topics that could trigger individuals. By creating safe and accepting work environments, all employees can share their thoughts and ideas without feeling isolated, whilst promoting inclusivity.
In saying that, employers need to actively make these changes to facilitate equal opportunities. For example, for people with disabilities, modifying the physical environment such as building ramps and handrails can provide better working conditions for them. It also important to be mindful of appropriately accomodating people of different ages.
For younger workers, their needs must be respected and employers must uphold laws surrounding minimum wage, restrictions on working hours, and the tasks they are allowed to perform. Furthermore, school-aged children and university students must be presented with this level of flexibility and compassion in the workplace, especially if they are studying full-time.
How can I ensure better equal employment opportunities?
Developing business policies and practices
Establishing a company’s culture is crucial for facilitating equal employment opportunities in the workplace. Implementing policies, practices and training to promote diversity and inclusion awareness can create a healthier environment for others and help boost overall productivity.
This can be commenced by writing a business policy that better outlines your company’s values and expectations based around the importance of inclusivity. Our subscription service includes an Equal Opportunity Policy template so that you can easily implement an Equal Opportunity Policy.
Additionally, developing a checklist will also help with keeping on track with company expectations and consistent team communication.
Implementing Cultural Workshops
While developing business policies can shape a workplace’s culture, actively taking steps to consolidate company standards will help with inclusivity and equal employment opportunities. Initiating cultural workshops for team building can provide a greater understanding of different cultures for other employees in the workplace. It is important to raise cultural awareness and diversity because it allows employees to communicate effectively with each other, develop stronger relationships, and positively build employee morale and engagement.
Implementing tactics such as holding seminars for their international partners and employing language classes can build better perspectives for the company. Additionally, even launching a ‘Cultural Day’ could be a nice niche to have in the office as it could strengthen relationships among the team.
Provide physical changes in the workplace
Changing the layout of a company’s workplace can be a lot of work. However, if it creates a better and safer working environment for your employees, it is worth it. As aforementioned, applying accessibility changes within the workplace can help with employees that have difficulty moving from one place to another. For instance, implementing ramps, handrails, and more space within an office environment can positively impact those with disabilities.
Adding in small touches can also make workplace environments more comfortable. This could include having menstrual products available in bathrooms.
What are the benefits of Equal Employment Opportunity?
Diversity in the workplace positively impacts both the employer and employee. It sets the standards and values in the company in conjunction with their interactions and opportunities.
Readily establishing the culture in the business can help new employees fit in with the rest of the team without feeling excluded by their background or personal attributes.
Differentiating employee perspectives, experience and knowledge can enhance and improve defined workplace practices.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace provide:
- Effective performance and increased productivity from employees
- Higher employee job satisfaction and reduce staff turnover
- Creative and innovative thinking among staff
- Improved staff health and wellbeing
- Lower risk of discrimination and harassment in the workplace
If you feel believe you are being treated unfairly or are suffering discrimination in the workplace, our sister company, Legal Kitz can assist you. To arrange a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of their highly experienced solicitors for any employment related matters, click here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 988 954.