Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is an instrumental concept to know if you’re an employer or employee. EEO refers to the standard that all people, regardless of certain characteristics, have the right to receive fair treatment in the workplace. This concerns treatment from both employers and prospective employers.
Some of these characteristics include:
- Sexual orientation
EEO standards are important to implement in small businesses. Doing so will promote a positive workplace culture. Further, legal ramifications exist for employers who are found not to comply with EEO standards.
In recent years, efforts have been made to achieve equality of opportunity. However, making sure your business does this can be harder in practice. However, there are some barriers to achieving this that go beyond complying with the relevant legislation, and involve changing your processes.
The Federal Government has passed numerous laws aiming to protect people from discrimination in the workplace. These include:
- The Age Discrimination Act 2004
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- The Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1984
Significantly, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is tasked with enforcing the above legislation. Under these, the AHRC has the power to investigate any complaints of alleged discrimination.
Despite this, EEO practitioner Dr Sev Ozdowski has said that evidence of EEO in the workplace is not all that great. He says that people living with a disability for example, still have ten times the unemployment rate. To combat this, workplaces need to go beyond the legislation and provide a work environment that is accessible by all.
Advice and Tips
During the hiring process
Acting in accordance with EEO standards commences before employment begins. When recruiting for roles, be sure not to have any exclusionary language on your advertisements. Further, consider introducing name-blind resumes to ensure you hire based on merit.
Looking after your current employees
Something which the legislation commonly fails to do is to adequately cater for the needs and wants of all differences in the workplace. However, there are a number of little things you can do which will affect change on a larger scale. Some of these tips include:
- Have a supportive management team that supports organisational change and adhere to EEO values
- Review your workplace policies regularly
- Source employee information
- Look at what other employers do to promote EEO
Other issues for employers can include the accessibility of buildings, and the ability to use equipment amongst other things. Having easily accessible facilities in the workplace will promote a positive workplace culture. This can demand a reasonable adjustment to workplace environments, but they are changes worth making.
You have an employee named Mikhail, who has been employed by you for 4 years. In that time, he was in an accident where he lost the use of his right leg. Your workplace is only accessible by stairs, making it difficult for John to access his office. You are obliged to install a lift or other mechanism which will allow Mikhail to access his workspace.
Have the right policies in place
Having adequate policies in place is a must for employers. Some of these policies include anti-discrimination and grievance policies. Employees will feel secure knowing that you take your EEO obligations seriously, and further, it will foster a positive work environment.
Beyond this, be open to engaging in group training days or other activities which will promote empathy and understanding in your workplace. Being an EEO employer requires concerted efforts towards change, but making this change is in the interests of both you and your employees in the long run.
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