Four common myths about equality and diversity

by Savita Narain

Photo: Flickr - Clever Cupcakes

Attribute: flickr Clever Cupcakes

The Equality Act came into force in 2010, but in my experience of helping voluntary and community sector organisations to understand and implement the legislation, there is still a lack of clarity as to its importance and relevance to them. While we all agree that it’s important to treat all staff with respect and dignity, when it comes to implementing equalities legislation I’ve encountered a number of misconceptions.

Here are four common myths I’ve come across:


#1 All charities are good at equality and diversity – helping people is what they do.

Having a charitable mission does not ensure that your organisation is managing equality and diversity effectively, or meeting the requirements of equalities legislation.  All charities should have an up to date and effective equality and diversity policy, which all staff and volunteers are able to implement.


#2  Managing equality and diversity only benefits people from minority groups.

A proactive and positive approach to managing equality and diversity should enable all staff to perform better.  It should help your organisation to motivate staff, increase innovation, improve team working and provide improved and more appropriate services. 


#3 Equal opportunities is ‘political correctness gone mad.

The focus of equalities legislation is not to force organisations to treat certain people and groups more favourably, but to prevent people from being treated ‘less favourably’ because of a protected characteristic, like race, age or gender.  Some actions that are reportedly undertaken in the name of equal opportunities, like some schools supposedly banning the use of the term ‘blackboard’, have no basis in equalities legislation as far as I can see and only damage the reputation of equal opportunities.


#4 Small charities and voluntary organisations don’t have to comply with equalities legislation.

All employers have to comply with the Equality Act 2010, regardless of how many staff they employ.  If your organisation does not employ any staff and relies solely on volunteers, you still should ensure that you comply with the Equality Act 2010 in the provision of your services, and this, it can be argued, should include how you recruit and manage your volunteers.


Savita Narain is Deputy Director of AVA (Against Violence and Abuse), a national organisation that works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls.  She has worked for nearly 20 years in the voluntary and community sector, mostly in advice and information services.  Her most recent experience has included being Acting Head of Rethink Mental Illness' Advice and Information Service, working as a Development Consultant on discrimination advice for AdviceUK and managing a project on employment equality law for the Law Centres Federation.  She is a qualified trainer and delivers training on equality, diversity and discrimination issues.


Want to know more about equality and diversity and practical implications for your organisation? Book your place today for All sorts: 10 things every VCS organisation should know about equality and diversity on 29 January.