Equality, diversity & inclusion

Illustration of overlapping faces in different colours

Enabling all to belong and flourish.

Jump to: Policy statement | Diocesan vision | Definitions | Purpose & our commitment | Scope | Accountabilities | Monitoring & compliance | Support & documents | Status of the policy | Implementation plan


Policy statement 

The diocese is made up of people with a wide variety of theologies and understandings. This policy sets out our commitment to work within what is currently permitted by the Church of England to be an organisation that is as diverse, equal and inclusive as we can make it.

We are committed to being an equal opportunities employer and to creating a supportive and inclusive environment where each person in all their unique differences feels a sense of belonging and can flourish, irrespective of physical appearance, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic background, academic ability, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Diocese of Oxford believes that a church is the community of God’s people and recognises that all people are of equal importance in the eyes of God. We are committed to the principles and practices of equality – fairly and consistently treating each person according to their diverse needs and valuing our differences.

The Diocese of Oxford will not discriminate or treat any individual less favourably on the grounds of sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. We will challenge discrimination in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.

Sometimes we have to treat people differently, for example in order to accommodate a disability or to meet occupational requirements for a position. Some lay posts may give rise to an Occupational Requirement that the post-holder has a commitment to the Christian faith. The Church of England’s current rules mean that some priests may not apply for certain positions, i.e., women priests are prevented from applying for some priestly roles, and not all people are eligible to pursue a calling to ordination, i.e., married same-sex couples and some disabled people. This policy is intended to address unlawful discrimination.


Our diocesan vision 

The diocese believes that our ethos around equality, diversity and inclusion emerges from a desire and motivation to express Christ’s love to those whom we serve and to reflect this love internally in our relationships with one another, understanding the role of self and others in the overall integrity where both the individual and the diocesan community remain true to their values.  

Our vision is to be a more Christ-like Church: contemplative, compassionate and courageous for the sake of God’s world.

Our diocesan vision and values are at the heart of everything we do in ministry and employment, alongside our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, within the theological imperative, do justice, walk humbly, have mercy, so that we provide opportunities for all our people to flourish and live life to the full.



Protected characteristics refer to the nine characteristics that are protected in the Equality Act (2010). The nine protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Equality is about fairness. It is not about treating everyone in the same way, but it recognises that everyone’s needs are met in different ways. It is based on the legal obligation to comply with anti-discrimination legislation. Equality protects people from being discriminated against on the grounds of protected characteristics. 

Diversity is to recognise, respect and value the differences and the gifts that everyone has, and to embrace them to their fullest.

Inclusion is to foster a learning environment that allows and enables people with different backgrounds, characteristics, abilities, opinions and ways of thinking to work together, grow together and flourish.

Positive action is when an organisation takes positive steps to help or encourage certain groups to participate in an activity or overcome or minimise disadvantages. For example, offering leadership development training to women when an organisation has identified that those women are under-represented in senior leadership roles. 

Discrimination means treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics. This is unlawful discrimination when based on protected characteristics. Discrimination can occur in the following forms:

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination is where a person is treated less favourably than another not on the merits, but on the grounds of a protected characteristic they have. For example, overlooking a job applicant because of their gender or sexuality. It includes:

  • Discrimination by association occurs when a person is directly discriminated against by association with another individual who has a protected characteristic;
  • Discrimination by perception is when a person is directly discriminated against based on a perception that the person has a particular protected characteristic, even if they do not actually possess it.  
Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when a practice, policy or rule applies to everyone in the same way, but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified only if it can be shown that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

  • Harassment is “unwanted conduct, related to a protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual” (Bullying and harassment at work, ACAS - June 2014);
  • Victimisation occurs when an individual is treated unfairly or has suffered a detriment because they made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) is when we make judgments or decisions about an individual or group of people on the basis of our prior experiences, our own deep-seated thought patterns, assumptions, social stereotypes or interpretations. Much of the time we are unaware that we are doing it, hence 'unconscious'. Actively choosing to judge or make decisions about someone because of who they are is prejudice

Microaggression is a statement, action or incident that is regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group, such as a racial or ethnic minority. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge and recognise discrimination, unconscious bias and microaggression whenever they happen, as they can impact individual and or group relationships sometimes with detrimental consequences – whether it’s at work, ministry or just in our lives in general.

Occupational Requirement – The Equality Act 2010 provides some exemptions that apply to the work environment which allow employers to require employees to have (or not have) certain protected characteristics. These are called Occupational Requirements (OR), and the burden is on the employer to show that there is an occupational requirement attached to a particular job role. A typical example within the Church would be the post carries a genuine occupational requirement to be a practising Christian.

Reasonable Adjustments - Under the Equality Act 2010 (unlawful discrimination legislation), employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff. This means making changes to a disabled person’s environment or the way their employment is structured to mitigate any disadvantages allowing them to work safely and productively. This may include removing physical barriers, providing extra support, and providing flexibility.


Purpose and our commitment

Our aim is for everyone in the Diocese of Oxford to feel that they belong and are valued for who they are and what they contribute. This policy sets out our legal obligations and commitments (see legal obligations, below), within the framework of the Church of England, to acknowledge our diverse diocese and to better reflect the communities we serve, thus achieving our vision of being a more Christ-like Church; contemplative, compassionate and courageous for the sake of God’s world, where:

  • People are treated fairly and with dignity and respect;
  • We create a working environment that promotes dignity and respect for everyone;
  • Equality of opportunity for learning and development is promoted for everyone;
  • Discrimination is challenged including unconscious bias and microaggression;
  • Everyone can flourish and reach their full potential, and we respond positively to different needs and circumstances;
  • We ensure that the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded within our recruitment, appointment and people management processes;
  • We encourage anyone who feels they have been subject to discrimination to raise their concerns so we can apply corrective measures.

Current equality legislation and associated codes of practice are considered, including, but not limited to the: Equality Act 2010; Employment Rights Act 1996; Part time working regulations 2000; Rehabilitation of Offenders Act; Equal Pay Act 1970; Employment Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000 (as amended).



This policy covers all aspects of employment and ministry with the diocese, including the recruitment and appointment process, pay and benefits, terms and conditions or terms of service, individuals’ behaviour and conduct, dealing with grievances and discipline, dismissal, redundancy, parental leave, flexible working, promotion, and training and other developmental opportunities. It applies to:

  • All officeholders on common tenure and those on freehold;
  • Clergy with Permission to Officiate (PtO);
  • Licenced Lay Ministers (LLMs);
  • ODBE/ODBF employees and volunteers;
  • Senior clergy (Area Deans, Archdeacons, Associate Archdeacons, Area Bishops and Diocesan Bishop) with pastoral responsibility for the clergy within the diocese.



The Diocese of Oxford has a legal obligation under the Equality Act (2010) to protect people from discrimination in the workplace.  

Diocesan commitments

As a diocese we commit to our equality, diversity and inclusion implementation plan that accompanies this policy so that we:

  • Take seriously and deal with situations where anyone has breached the policy;
  • Meet our legal obligations;
  • Minimise the risk of discrimination by taking appropriate steps in our recruitment, selection, and management/supervision of employees, officeholders and volunteers;
  • Have a zero-tolerance response to discrimination.
Individual commitments

Every individual within the scope of this policy is expected to:

  • Familiarise themselves with this policy, ensuring that their practices and conduct are consistent with it;
  • Be aware of their responsibilities and report any cases of discrimination and unfair treatment witnessed that breach this policy to the relevant manager or supervisor;
  • Behave in a respectful way towards others and understand that views and opinions may differ;
  • Engage with any training offered within this area. 

For further information about specific actions please refer to the implementation plan.

Responsibilities for specific roles

Bishops Council/Board of Trustees/Human Resources Panel endorse and commend this policy to all other bodies associated with or supported by the Diocese of Oxford, including deaneries and parishes, and in so far as it lies within their power, will ensure that it is accepted and implemented throughout their sphere of influence.

The Bishop of Oxford and Senior Management Group (SMG) show leadership and are responsible for championing equality, diversity, and inclusion, monitoring progress against our commitments as outlined in the implementation plan and embedded in our culture.

The Human Resources team has delegated operational responsibility to ensure the policy is fit for purpose, up to date and in line with legalisation. It also works with others to identify and delivers any necessary training on equal opportunities or equality, diversity, and inclusion is undertaken. 

Those with management or supervisory responsibilities (e.g. ODBF heads of department, ODBE Senior Leadership team, bishops, archdeacons, associate archdeacons, area deans and incumbents) are required to:

  • Communicate, implement, and promote this policy;
  • Lead by example, modelling positive inclusive behaviour and providing support to everyone within their area of responsibility including volunteers;
  • Manage/supervise their individuals fairly and in line with all the diocesan HR policies and procedures acting when necessary to ensure an inclusive environment free from discrimination.


Monitoring and compliance 

If you believe you have been subject to discrimination under this policy, then you are encouraged to raise the matter with your line manager or supervising minister.   

Allegations regarding potential breaches of this policy will be treated in confidence and investigated in accordance with the appropriate procedure. The Diocese of Oxford will ensure that individuals who make such allegations in good faith will not be victimised or treated less favourably as a result. However, false allegations which are found to have been made in bad faith will be dealt with under the relevant Disciplinary Procedure. 

Any person found to have committed an act of discrimination will be subject to disciplinary action under the applicable policy/measure (Disciplinary Policy/Clergy Discipline Measure).


Support and guidance

Below is a list of the services available for further advice, guidance and support. 

  • Employee Assistance Programme (Staff and Parochial Clergy) offers support and guidance to clergy/employees and their immediate family members 24 hours a day. You can access the EAP via the welcome document.
  • Authorised Listeners (bullying and harassment) is a pool of trained, confidential volunteer authorised listeners. For further information please visit the webpage.
  • The LGBTI+ Chaplaincy service offers listening and support, and prayerful affirmation for LGBTI+ people, their families and friends across the diocese.
  • The diocesan staff chaplaincy service offers pastoral support to staff and can be accessed by Church House staff via Microsoft Teams.
  • Several recognised Trade Unions are available for staff to join (employees and clergy). You can find out more via the HR SharePoint site.

Relevant documents

It is recognised that this policy sits alongside other policies and procedures within the Diocese of Oxford. It specifically complements and must be read in conjunction with:


Status of the policy

This policy is not a contractual term of employment or part of the office holder’s terms of service. It is intended to act as a general framework only. It may be varied in any way and at any time where the diocese reasonably deems this to be necessary.

Implementation plan

Implementation plan for the Diocese of Oxford equality, inclusion and diversity policy.

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