Equality and Diversity Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Equality and diversity officers encourage values of equality and diversity to develop within their organisation - most often a local authority, trade union or educational institution, but increasingly within the private sector. They ensure that, within the areas of training, employment, and promotion or provision of services, no employee or client suffers direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender, gender identity, age, race, religion, belief, disability, sexual orientation or marital status.

Duties may include:

  • Familiarising themselves with current legislation relating to equality and diversity.
  • Analysing statistics relating to equality and researching best practice within other organisations.
  • Developing their own organisation's equality and diversity policy, in line with changing legislation and best practice.
  • Producing surveys and reports on progress in equality and diversity and preparing action plans to further encourage diversity amongst workers and clients.
  • Advising colleagues who are involved in recruitment, training, staff development or policy development.
  • Carrying out equality impact assessments with regard to the provision of employment and services to the public.
  • Organising in-house courses on equality and diversity awareness.
  • Identifying any specific equality problems within the organisation and taking action to solve them.
  • Confronting less obvious instances of discrimination such as bullying, teasing, harassment or exclusion of individuals.
  • Researching the availability of grants to assist employers to provide reasonable structural adjustments and equipment such as disabled toilets.
  • Checking promotional literature produced by the organisation to ensure diversity is reflected in examples and illustrations.

Equality and diversity officers usually work standard hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional evening work.

Most of the work is carried out within the office. There may be some travel to meetings with occasional overnight stays at conferences. A driving licence may be useful.

Starting salaries may be from around £18,000 a year. Experienced equality and diversity officers may earn up to £40,000 and senior officers or managers may earn £60,000 or more, especially in London.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers of full-time equality and diversity officers include:

- Local Authorities
- Central Government Departments
- Trade Unions
- Universities and Colleges

There are also opportunities with other large employers, such as the police and armed forces, NHS trusts, financial institutions and chain stores, as well as within the voluntary sector.

Smaller workplaces often incorporate the equality and diversity role within the job role of a human resources officer. Some delegate this responsibility to a named staff member or committee of staff members.

The number of equality and diversity officers has grown in recent years. Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers, The Guardian (Wednesday, public sector section), and specialist magazines like Disability Now. Some councils produce jobs bulletins, which are available from council offices, libraries, local community centres and Jobcentre Plus offices.

Useful websites for vacancies include:

Education and Training

There are no set academic requirements to become an equality and diversity officer. Most have already worked in a personnel or human resources environment and gained some knowledge of equality and diversity policies and legislation.

Most employers require applicants for human resources work at assistant or administrative level to have at least five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent. A degree, foundation degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) is usually required to start at officer level.

Sheffield Hallam University offers a BA Honours degree in education and disability studies. Also relevant, and widely available, are degrees and HND's in human resource management and in business (human resources management).

Entry to degree courses is usually with at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications. Entry to foundation degrees and HND's is usually with at least one A level, or equivalent qualifications.

An advanced diploma in a subject such as society, health and development may be accepted for entry to degree, foundation degree and HND courses.

Applicants who have relevant skills and experience may be accepted onto courses without the usual academic entry requirements. Candidates should check prospectuses carefully, as the content of courses and entry requirements can vary considerably.

HND and foundation degree courses usually last two years full time. Honours degree courses usually take three years full time or four years for courses that include a year's practical work placement.

There are part-time and full-time postgraduate courses in the specialist field of equality and diversity. Such qualifications can be helpful when applying for senior positions.

  • MA equality and diversity - London Metropolitan University.
  • MA diversity management - Leeds University.
  • MA, Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma in promoting equality and managing diversity - University of Central Lancashire.
  • MSc in equality and diversity - Cardiff University.
  • MA, Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma in inclusion - Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in race equality - University of the West of Scotland.
  • Short part-time course in managing diversity - University of the West of Scotland.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Newly appointed officers without experience of working with equality and diversity policies and legislation may work towards:

- NCFE Level 2 Certificate in equality and diversity
- NCFE Level 3 Certificate in managing diversity

Officers may study for a postgraduate qualification such as those listed above.

Equality and diversity officers must keep up with changes in equality and diversity law and policies and with relevant case law, so continuing professional development (CPD) is important. This may include attending conferences, reading journals and attending courses. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, for example, offers short courses in discrimination law. There are also specialist private providers offering training courses customised to the needs of particular employers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An equality and diversity officer should be:

  • Familiar with the detail of equalities legislation, as well as the organisation's own policy.
  • Familiar with equality and diversity best practice.
  • Able to communicate with people who have varied levels of fluency in English.
  • A patient, tactful and sympathetic listener.
  • Assertive enough to deal with unpleasant situations.
  • Good at delivering written and spoken presentations.
  • Persuasive and good at negotiation.
  • Able to work either independently or as part of a team.
  • Able to balance the needs of the organisation with the promotion of equality.

Your Long Term Prospects

Some larger organisations offer the chance for an equality and diversity officer to progress to equality and diversity manager. In other cases, career development may mean moving into another job within the broad field of human resources.

There are also openings from time to time within the specialist organisations set up to monitor and eliminate discrimination, for example in the field of community relations. Consultancy work is another possibility for those with a lot of experience.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD),
151 The Broadway, London SW19 1JQ
Tel: 020 8612 6200
Website: www.cipd.co.uk

Equality and Human Rights Commission,
3 More London, Riverside Tooley Street,
London SE1 2RG
Tel: 020 3117 0235
Website: www.equalityhumanrights.com

The Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners,
Venture House, 6 Silver Court, Welwyn Garden City,
Hertfordshire AL7 1 TF
Tel: 0844 4827 263
Website: www.iedp.org.uk

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