By law, organisations mustn't discriminate against people they recruit or employ. Plus, it's good practice – and good business sense – to hire and promote people from a wide range of backgrounds. People's different perspectives and experiences make working life more interesting and teams more productive.
However, the law in this area is complex, and organisations need equal opportunities officers (also known as diversity and inclusion officers) to provide advice on legislation and to create and manage policies that keep organisations in line with the law.
Typical responsibilities of equal opportunities officers include:
- designing and evaluating diversity and inclusion monitoring schemes
- keeping up to date with current equality and employment legislation
- providing advice about the law and best practice to help with recruiting, training and retaining staff
- designing, organising and running training
- providing advice so that promotional opportunities are handled fairly.
- Local authorities
- Universities and colleagues
- Government departments
- Private companies
- Professional bodies
- Trade unions
- Police authorities
- Hospitals and health trusts
Large organisations will advertise roles on national job websites, specialist charity and local authority sites. For jobs in smaller organisations, look for HR roles that include diversity and inclusion work. Roles may be advertised on social media and in community news sources (such as local jobs websites and newsletters), and recruitment agencies may also advertise generalist HR positions that include diversity work.
There are routes into becoming an equal opportunities officer for both graduates and school leavers.
It's not essential to have a degree to become an equal opportunities officer, but you'll need a clear understanding of equal opportunities legislation and good practice in diversity and inclusion. You can build this via a general HR roles and/or an HR qualification.
If you have experience working with people from different backgrounds and have seen the impact of this, this will strengthen your application. Voluntary work may help, as will any work experience where you've worked with a broad range of people.
To find out about how you can get into other public sector careers via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
You'll need good communication skills so that you can explain complex concepts. Other essential qualities and skills include:
- a solid understanding of equality legislation and a commitment to keeping up your knowledge of it
- analytical skills
- confidence to run training sessions
- strong listening skills
- the ability to relate to people from a wide range of backgrounds.