As an employer, it is essential to understand EEO and the obligations that arise with it. EEO is mandated by the Government, and is therefore an essential aspect to consider whilst running a business. This Business Kitz article will explain EEO and its purpose.
What is Equal Employment Opportunity?
The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) ensures that all employees are treated equally within all aspects of their job. This means that all employees are awarded employment opportunities solely on their ability to do the job, and are not discriminated against due to personal attributes, including, but not limited to, gender, race, ethnicity, pregnancy, or religion.
Although EEO does not guarantee that underrepresented groups will get hired, it does ensure that individuals will not be rejected because they’re in a projected group.
What if my business fails to comply with EEO?
If a company fails to comply with EEO regulations, they may face complaints, lawsuits or other additional fines. Moreover, failure to comply can result in intangible costs, where employers miss out on the benefits of a diverse workforce; the associated different perspectives and approaches to given work.
What does EEO look like in Australia?
In Australia, there are various legal frameworks in place protect the right to equal opportunities for all employees in the workplace. This legislation aims to prevent discrimination and sexual harassment, while promoting gender equality, amongst other things. Discrimination is defined as treating someone differentially because of a personal attribute protected by law. Anti-discrimination legislation covers both direct and indirect acts of discrimination. When an employee is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristics, it is classified as direct discrimination. When an employee is treated like everyone else, however, is at an unfair disadvantage because of their personal attributes, then this is classified as indirect discrimination.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is responsible for enforcing federal EEO and anti-dicsrimination legislation. If you believe you have been discriminated against in a way that is prohibited by this legislation, you can lodge a formal complaint with the AHRC.
Although Commonwealth and 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:
- Discrimination Act (ACT) 1991;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (NT) 1996;
- Equal Opportunity Act (SA) 1984;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (NSW) 1977;
- Equal Opportunity Act (Vic) 2010;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (Qld) 1991;
- Anti-Discrimination Act (Tas) 1998; and
- Equal Opportunity Act (WA) 1984.
What are the benefits of EEO legislation?
Both employees and employers can benefit from EEO legislation and diversity within the workplace. Research shows that diversity at work can lead to the follow benefits:
- Enhanced performance and higher levels of productivity from employees;
- Greater employee job satisfaction leading to reduced staff turnover;
- Promotes creative and innovative solutions by employees;
- Improves staff health and wellbeing; and
- Lowers occurances of discrimination and harrassment within the workplace.
How do I promote equal opportunities within the workplace?
There are many ways in which you can promote EEO and diversity within the workplace. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Using multiple different methods of recruiting new staff to attract applicants from a variety of different backgrounds;
- Developing workplace rules and implement training which raises awareness of different cultures and promotes inclusion;
- Setting up mentoring sessions which match employees of different backgrounds to promote honest communication and develop understanding; and
- Having grievance investigation procedures and compliant handling processes in place in case any issues of discrimination should arise.
If you require any assistance with EEO or anti-discrimination procedures, you should seek legal advice. Our sister company Legal Kitz, offers a FREE 30-minute consultation for any employment related matters. Additionally, we offer a subscription plan for employers from the low price of $14 per user per month. This subscription will allow you access to over 150+ legally compliant, HR and employment related document templates. Click here to find out more.