How To Tackle Discrimination And Promote Equality

New law in force

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.

The starting point for any effort to improve access to your services is to assess what you are doing already and to look for areas where you can improve.

This might include:

  • reviewing the requirements of the legislation and making sure you understand the implications for your organisation
  • anticipating any changes that you might need to make and planning ahead
  • looking for examples of good practice from other service providers
  • consulting existing customers about changes they think need to be made (although remember: existing customers can only tell you about their needs – think about the needs of customers who may not currently be able to access your services)
  • obtaining professional help

Remember that barriers to accessing your service are not just physical barriers – think about whether you are unintentionally hindering some groups from using your services by other means, such as where you advertise your services or who you employ.

See Rights in action: working and earning for a full overview of employee’s rights.

Equality and diversity policy

An equality and diversity policy is an important statement of your organisation’s attitude to rights and equality in the services you offer. By drawing up an official policy you are making a commitment to ensuring that all service users receive fair and equal treatment.

An effective policy:

  • explains who is covered by the policy
  • explains what you mean by service delivery
  • states your values and how you intend to put them into practice
  • shows customers you are serious about fairness in the way you provide your services
  • helps people understand what they can expect of your organisation
  • helps to win new customers
  • supports your action plan
  • tells customers why and how they should complain if the policy is not met.

Action plan

Your action plan takes the goals of your equality policy and specifies: 

  • what will be done to achieve these goals
  • which senior person is responsible for each action
  • deadlines and targets for achieving the goals
  • how breaches of the policy will be tackled and rectified
  • how success or failure will be measured
  • how, and how often, progress will be reviewed.

A good action plan makes sure that the goals of your equality and diversity policy are translated into real changes and improvements in the way you provide services.

You should make sure that all your employees are familiar with the policy and action plan, and how this will affect their work. This is particularly important for:

  • senior staff who are responsible for carrying out your action plan
  • customer-facing staff.

Most public authorities are required to publish race, disability and gender schemes or policies, and have an additional duty to actively promote equality.

If you are a contractor working for a public-sector client, they will have to make sure that you work in a way that complies with these duties. A good equality policy and action plan can help.

Dealing properly with complaints and grievances

Making sure that complaints about discrimination are properly handled is central to good practice in equality.

Dealing with complaints quickly and carefully saves time and money in the long run. Many complaints end up in court because of avoidable mistakes earlier in the process, such as a poorly-thought-through adjustment or insensitive treatment of the original grievance.

Good complaints handling is an opportunity for any organisation to demonstrate that they listen to customers and react to their concerns, and that they can acknowledge mistakes and will put them right quickly – all of which can help create customer loyalty and generate positive feedback.

Your complaints procedure

Don’t wait for a complaint to be made before developing a complaints procedure. You should make sure that all your staff are familiar with the procedure – through training or induction – and it should include details of:

  • what a customer should do if they feel that they have been discriminated against
  • how their complaint will be investigated
  • how long the investigation will be expected to take
  • who will investigate and respond to the complainant
  • what they should do if they remain dissatisfied.

Your complaints process should aim to be open and transparent, and be available to all customers.

If the outcome of your complaints procedure does not satisfy the complainant, they can pursue the matter through the county court in England and Wales, or sheriff court in Scotland.

You should always try to resolve a complaint at the earliest possible opportunity.

For more information on the principles of good complaintshandling, and how they are applied to the public sector visit  the ombudsman website.

Monitoring progress and encouraging continuous improvement

To ensure that your plan is successful, it’s crucial that you monitor progress and take action if targets are not being met.

Take your action plan seriously: see that progress is reviewed regularly by senior staff.

Recognise and reward good practice in equality and diversity. Highlight good examples or new developments in internal communications such as staff newsletters, and develop an appropriate reward scheme for the people involved.

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