Oftentimes, equal opportunity is misunderstood as a uniform promotion for everybody, however equal opportunity at workplace is a conscious practice of fostering a discrimination and prejudice-free environment for everyone. Every individual has a right to be valued and respected regardless of their background and the company’s ethnicity. Therefore, everyone deserves an equal and fair chance to be hired and elevated to a higher position.
Ensuring a balanced environment at the workplace where no employee is treated unjustly basis any stereotypes, caste, age, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, color, nationality, religion religious beliefs, and /or class, is the foremost step towards achieving fair and equal employment. Organizations have been adopting the concept of equal employment opportunity “EEO” policy through which the hiring, promotion, termination, or compensation of any employee depends purely on merit or educational qualifications but not on any other factor.
Why is there a need to adopt an equal employment opportunity policy?
The need for an EEO policy in a company arises from the principles of fairness, diversity, and inclusivity. The policy highlights the company’s commitment to providing training and educational programs to employees to promote awareness of EEO principles and prevent discrimination in all employment practices, such as hiring, promotion, training, compensation, benefits, and termination. The policy typically includes procedures for employees to report incidents of discrimination, harassment, or any violations of the EEO policy. It assures protection against retaliation for reporting such incidents. An EEO policy is essential for creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture. Companies that actively promote equal employment opportunities tend to attract and retain a diverse workforce, leading to increased productivity, innovation, and overall success.
Advantages of adopting EEO policy:
There are several reasons why implementing an EEO policy is crucial for an organization:
Promotes diversity and inclusivity
An EEO policy encourages a diverse workforce and ensures that individuals from different backgrounds and demographics have equal opportunities for employment and advancement. A diverse workforce can bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and enhance creativity within the company.
Many countries have laws and regulations in place that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Implementing an EEO policy helps the company adhere to these laws and reduces the risk of legal disputes and costly lawsuits related to discrimination.
Enhances company reputation
Companies with a strong commitment to equal employment opportunities are generally viewed more favorably by customers, investors, and the public. Such companies often attract top talent and enjoy a positive reputation in the market.
Boosts employee morale and productivity
When employees feel that they are treated fairly and have equal opportunities for growth and advancement, it boosts their morale and motivation. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity and loyalty among employees.
Reduces recruitment costs
Companies that provide equal opportunities and a supportive work environment are more likely to retain their employees. High employee turnover can be costly for a company due to recruitment, training, and onboarding expenses.
Fosters a positive work culture
An EEO policy reinforces the values of respect, fairness, and inclusivity within the company culture. It helps create a work environment where all employees feel valued and can thrive, leading to a more harmonious workplace.
Attracts a wider talent pool
Companies prioritizing equal employment opportunities are likely to attract a more diverse pool of job applicants. This widens the talent pool and increases the chances of finding highly skilled and qualified candidates.
Complements corporate social responsibility
Embracing EEO policies aligns with the concept of corporate social responsibility, which emphasizes a company’s commitment to ethical practices and social good.
Position under Indian laws regarding equal opportunity and equality in employment:
The Constitution of India
Article 15 of the Indian Constitution forbids discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth, and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution discourages the ineligibility of or discrimination against any person for employment on such abovementioned grounds.
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Further, as per the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, of 1976, the employer is disallowed from creating gender bias by remunerating an employee more favorably than the other employee for the same work performed by both employees.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
Every person including any disabled has an equal right to enjoy equality, life, and dignity. As per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (“RPWD Act”) states that unless a job is unachievable, no person should be discriminated against on the grounds of disability. RPWD Act read with the corresponding rules mandates the notification of its EEO policy for disabled persons.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019
A recent addition to the above is the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against any transgender person in employment matters.
The Indian Courts have time and again reiterated through various judgments that for all intents and purposes, all employees are entitled to equal opportunity and pay. Regardless of gender, age, race, nationality, religious or political beliefs, etc.
In the case of SK Nausad Rahaman and ors vs. UOI, it was held that in “providing equality and equal opportunity to women in the workplace of the State, it becomes necessary for the Government to adopt policies through which it produces substantive equality of opportunity as distinct from formal equality for women in the workplace. Women are subject to a patriarchal mindset that regards them as primary caregivers and homemakers and thus, they are burdened with an unequal share of family responsibilities. Measures to ensure substantive equality for women factor in not only those disadvantages which operate to restrict access to the workplace but equally those which continue to operate once a woman has gained access to the workplace”.
Conclusion: Equality of opportunity at the workplace keeps everyone on an equal pedestal and allows every individual to compete on equal terms and on a level playing field regardless of age, culture, status, race, background, etc. Organizations can discover and retain better talent when they do not succumb to nepotism and draw a common racing line. EEO policy not only disallows discrimination but also subjects every employee to fairness unhampered by artificial barriers, prejudices, or preferences. Since organizational productivity is co-dependent on employees’ productivity, it is imperative to implement unbiased hiring and promoting practices to result in enhanced capability, engagement, interest, and effectiveness of employees.