Wiltshire College
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What is equality and diversity?

There are many definitions of Equality and Diversity, but these are ones we particularly like and are very simple:

Equality: Is all about fair treatment and people having opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Diversity: Is all about respecting difference and celebrating this difference. It is what makes us all interesting and individual human beings.

Usually when talking about Equality and Diversity three main reasons for ensuring good Equality and Diversity are quoted:

  • Moral reasons: We all have a moral obligation to treat people with dignity and respect and treat people as individuals with individual needs. This is what being human is all about and is also enshrined in such international principles as Human Rights.
  • Business reasons: Especially when looking at why employers should ensure Equality and Diversity in their workforce business reasons are often stated. It is argued that the more people can be themselves at work and the more differences are represented at the workplace the wider the pool of ideas, motivation and moral is and the better the organisation will perform. Also, with a diverse customer base demanding products, it is helpful for organisations to have employees reflecting this customer base to ensure products and services fit the needs of customers.
  • Legislation: There are strict laws governing Equality and Diversity legislation and penalties for breaking these can be high. Not just in terms of fines but also in terms of publicity for organisations or people that break them. These laws range from international standards around Human Rights to national legislation which is now mainly governed by the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act 2010 was introduced in October 2010 and brings together almost all the previous equality legislation that existed. This bringing together means that it will be easier to find out for people what their rights and obligations are and for organisations and service providers what their rights and obligations are, by bringing all legislation into one single document.

Under the Equality Act 2010 there are certain so called protected characteristics that are protected from discrimination. These characteristics are:

  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Transgender/Trans-sexual
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion and Belief
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity

Although there are some variations between these groups in terms of level of protection and duties on organisations, a general rule is that all these groups should be particularly considered when looking at employment practices and service provisions, especially the first seven.

The Equality Act 2010 recognises several types of discrimination and different characteristics are protected under these. If you want to find out more about the different types of discrimination, please read our Equality and Diversity Policy and Single Equality Scheme, both of which can be found in the How and What are we doing section.

This is just a very brief overview and gives a flavour of what Equality and Diversity is. If you want to find out more please have a look at the other links on the main Equality and Diversity page and read some of our documents and policies that will put this into more context. You can also visit some of the following links if you want to find out more about EandD in general and these have also got lots of useful links to relevant organisations that specifically deal with some of the protected characteristics mentioned before.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC): http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/
Equalities Office (part of the Home Office): http://homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/

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