If equality is important to you then you may thrive as an equality and diversity officer, fighting for equal access to services and promoting positive attitudes

Equality and diversity officers aim to promote good relations and practices towards different minority groups. They may work within community services, supporting people who experience some form of discrimination and delivering diversity workshops to communities, staff and volunteers.

The role can also involve the development, monitoring and review of policies and strategies designed to ensure organisations, staff and stakeholders engage with legislative duties. In major companies, officers may specialise in one particular area such as disability or race relations, while those in smaller organisations may work across a range of strands.

Types of work

Equality and diversity officers cover various equality strands, such as:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation.

Responsibilities

As an equality and diversity officer, you'll need to:

  • research, apply and promote diversity initiatives and share best practice
  • provide advice, guidance and support on equality and diversity issues
  • assess community needs and promote community cohesion
  • promote changes within organisations and the wider community
  • develop systems for reporting any incidents of discrimination
  • liaise with community groups and other relevant organisations, e.g. police, local councils, NHS trusts
  • raise awareness in schools, colleges and the wider community
  • deal with conflict within the community or the workplace
  • interact with people at all levels and from a range of backgrounds
  • respond to complaints and provide information on options for complainants
  • maintain an up-to-date knowledge of anti-discriminatory legislation
  • translate equality legislation into practice to ensure organisations meet statutory requirements
  • write, implement and review policy at corporate and service level
  • present reports and recommendations
  • prepare and deliver presentations and workshops to staff, stakeholders and partner organisations.

Salary

  • Equality and diversity officers typically start on salaries of £18,000 to £28,000 depending on employer, qualifications and experience.
  • With significant experience, at a management or head of department level, salaries of £35,000 to £50,000 can be achieved.
  • Equality and diversity managers working for large public sector organisations or international companies may earn over £50,000.

Most salaries are related to local government or Civil Service grades and may include a pension scheme.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, possibly with some extra hours. You will occasionally be required to work evenings or weekends to engage in community activities.

What to expect

  • Work is office-based to a certain extent, but you will also need to travel locally to attend meetings, deliver training and work with communities.
  • Self-employment or freelance work is sometimes possible when you have experience, for example, providing training or consultancy services on equality issues to both the public and private sectors.
  • Jobs can be found throughout the UK, although competition can be strong and there are more opportunities in larger urban areas.
  • The work may involve dealing with conflict and politically-sensitive or controversial issues, which can sometimes be stressful.
  • It is likely that you will be required to take a Disclosure and Barring Service check due to working with vulnerable groups and/or under-18s.

Qualifications

Employers often seek candidates with a degree and although any subject may be accepted, the following may increase your chances:

  • business or management
  • community studies or youth studies
  • human resources
  • law and legal studies
  • psychology
  • public administration
  • social work
  • sociology.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification in race equality, policy development or equality and diversity may be helpful, especially if you have an unrelated first degree.

Also helpful to the profession is a background in:

  • human resources
  • law
  • social work
  • teaching
  • welfare rights
  • youth work.

Showing an ongoing interest in the equality and diversity area will be helpful so keep up to date with emerging legislation and news by consulting organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Skills

You will need to show:

  • a commitment to promoting equality and diversity
  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • cultural sensitivity
  • experience of building relationships with key stakeholders and decision makers
  • that you have the ability to build the trust of community groups
  • negotiation and persuasion skills
  • team working ability
  • conflict resolution skills
  • self-motivation and an ability to use initiative
  • organisational and project management skills
  • good report-writing ability
  • presentation and training skills
  • that you can be flexible and are able to work across all levels and meet changing requirements.

Work experience

Employers strongly value relevant experience and proof of commitment to this area, so any experience gained within local government and in voluntary, faith and community sectors will be very useful.

You can often gain relevant experience at university, through equality and diversity committees or related societies. Alternatively, voluntary work in the community can be helpful. You could seek work experience in a relevant position, either in an equality and diversity role or in something related, such as HR. This could be carried out in vacancy periods or as a part-time role. Work shadowing may also be an option.

Employers

You can find work as an equality and diversity officer in a range of organisations, including:

  • local authorities
  • NHS primary care trusts
  • educational establishments
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
  • racial equality councils
  • the Civil Service
  • social housing organisations
  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • youth offending teams
  • the police and prison services.

Many local authorities have specific equality and diversity teams, while others have diversity officers based in each department. There are also specialist posts in community-based organisations and youth services.

Look for job vacancies at:

Word of mouth through voluntary and community sector contacts and networks is also an important way of finding out about vacancies.

Professional development

Exact training provision will depend on your employer but the majority of training is usually carried out on the job, with some additional external training covering specific topics, such as:

  • advocacy
  • community issues, tensions and engagement
  • employment law
  • equal opportunities legislation
  • negotiating skills
  • networking
  • presentation skills
  • policy or project management
  • report writing
  • risk assessment.

Regional networking events and conferences are also useful ways of updating your skills and knowledge.

Short training courses and qualifications are offered by organisations such as Equality and Diversity UK. Depending on the specific role, employers may wish you to study towards a relevant HR qualification or a qualification offered by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It's also possible to study part time towards a management qualification or relevant postgraduate qualification such as a Masters in equality and diversity and your employer may support this.

Career development

You could move into specialising and leading in just one area, such as disability, or continue to work across a range of areas.

There may be greater scope for your career development within large public bodies, such as local councils, health authorities and larger higher education institutions. It may be possible to move into senior positions in these organisations. If you work in a small company, you may need to move organisations or relocate to gain a promotion.

Some equality and diversity workers use their project management skills and policy development experience to move into general management.

With considerable experience, it may be possible to become self-employed, by offering training in equality and diversity or a consultancy service.