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Equal opportunity for employers

Achieve greater productivity and avoid staff disputes.

On this page

  • Understand employer requirements
  • Use our HR manual template to create policies
  • Get tips on preventing discrimination

Employer responsibilities

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, employers have a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate the following.


Discrimination is treating someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law such as sex, race or disability.

Find details about discrimination and a full list of personal characteristics on the Human Rights Commission website.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment describes a wide range of unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, which could reasonably be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Find details about sexual harassment on the Human Rights Commission website.


Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees, which offends, humiliates, intimidates or degrades. It is seen as a workplace hazard and can be reported as discrimination.

Find details about workplace bullying on the Human Rights Commission website.


Should a member of staff lodge a complaint for any of the above reasons, an employer has a responsibility to ensure that a person is not victimised, or treated unfavourably, because he or she has made a complaint or supported another person to make a complaint.

Find details about victimisation on the Human Rights Commission website.

Exceptions to the law

Under the Equal Opportunity Act, there are exceptions which can permit discrimination in certain circumstances. As an example, employers may limit the offering of a job to people of a particular sex if being that sex is a genuine and reasonable job requirement. However, employers should be aware that relying on an exception may not necessarily prevent a discrimination complaint being made against them.

Find details about exceptions to the law on the Human Rights Commission website.

Create an equal opportunity policy

Your workplace needs a written policy which is openly displayed and which all employees (including new starters) are trained in. Our HR manual template has everything you will need including:

  • a clear indication that unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated
  • examples of the kinds of behaviour which are unacceptable
  • how employees might manage discrimination and sexual harassment
  • how complaints will be handled and escalated when necessary
  • protections against victimisation
  • how the business will handle reasonable adjustments
  • flexible working arrangments for parents and carers.
Your Human Resources Manual should include an equal opportunity policy and information about discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace. This can help you comply with your legal obligations - including positive duty. Use our HR manual template to create policies for your business.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)DOCX icon

How to prevent discrimination

Once you understand your responsibilities and have created policies for your business, it is important to find ways to prevent issues before they develop into a complaint.  Below are some tips to help.

Educate your staff

It is important to ensure that your staff understand what their rights are and what your equal opportunities policies are so that they can play a major role in ensuring they are carried out.  You should:

  • create a policy document
  • make sure staff have read it and understand it
  • train an Equal Opportunity Officer
  • encourage staff to report any incidences.

Book a member of staff into training on the Human Rights Commission website.

Know your dispute resolution procedures

Our HR manual template provides clear procedures for taking and dealing with complaints.  This may be adjusted to suit your needs but by knowing what your procedures are, you will ensure that disputes can be dealt with quickly without escalation.

Communicate regularly with your staff

One of the best ways to prevent issues before they arise is by knowing your staff well.  By having clear channels of communication with staff, you will often become aware of issues early and be able to prevent them.

Use our communication skills for managers page to help achieve this.