Equal opportunity: Are you sure you’re offering it?

By Andrew Hobbs on November 6th, 2017
  1. Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination
  2. Equal Opportunity Employment


NO-ONE likes to talk about it, but it’s time we did. Even if you think your doors are open to every type of person who might apply, looking around your office might tell a different story.

Allowing equal opportunity in a workplace means that employees are not only free from discrimination, but also that they are treated with dignity and respect and they have equal access to jobs and chances for career advancement.

That means equality of opportunity not only while at work, but even at the job application stage, when candidates are knocking at the door.

The idea of name-blind recruitment – the practice of removing personally identifiable information from the resumes of applicants, including their name, gender, age and education, has been gaining popularity in recent years.

SBS reported that an Australian National University study published in the Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics in 2012 found that, when sending through more than 4,000 fictional applications for entry level jobs, people with names common to five different ethnic groups in Australia had to apply for more roles before getting an interview, compared with their anglo-celtic counterparts.

A person with a commonly indigenous Australian name had to submit 35 per cent more applications than a person with an anglo-celtic name, while an applicant with a typical Chinese name had to submit 68 per cent more applications.

An Italian-sounding job-seeker had to submit 12 per cent more applications while someone with a Middle Eastern name had to submit 64 per cent more applications than someone with an anglo-celtic name.

Three warning signs

The newly written chapter E7 Equal Opportunity Workplaces of the Employment Law Practical Handbook looks at three key warning signs that your workplace might not be doing all it can to allow equal opportunity.

  1. Low Workplace Diversity

Do all your employees tend to be of the same race, gender or age? Do you tend to have certain jobs for certain types of people? (e.g. ‘the ladies in the office?’) If you do – does this really need to be the case?

Remember that discrimination can be systemic – which is when the overall culture of a business or its practices prevent certain types of people from joining the organisation.

Even if you think that not hiring someone to work in a particular team is ‘for their own good’ – it is still discrimination.

  1. Far fewer applications from candidates with particular attributes

Do you find that certain groups just don’t apply for jobs with your business? Is there a particular reason for that?

  1. Problems retaining employees with a particular attribute

Do you have a high turnover of staff of a particular age group, gender or ethic group? Do you think of – or do your staff think of – certain groups that ‘just don’t like to work?’

Are you sure you are doing all you can to make people from these groups feel welcome? Are you offering them the same opportunities for promotion? The same incentives? The same training opportunities? Do they have certain needs that you aren’t meeting?

For further information

Chapter E7 Equal Opportunity Workplaces in the Employment Law Practical Handbook looks at this issue in greater detail – considering where anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation might come into play.

It also contains a checklist for making sure you are taking all the required steps towards having an equal opportunity workplace, and information about the reports that companies which employ more than 100 people are required to submit to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

The chapter is one of more than 70 developed by the lawyers at Holding Redlich, which help the Handbook provide valuable advice on a variety of subjects.

Why not sign up for a free 14-day trial to see what assistance the Employment Law Practical Handbook can provide to your business?

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