Equal Opportunities Policy and Practice in Britain: Evaluating the ‘Empty Shell’ Hypothesis

Kim Hoque, Mike Noon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Citations (Scopus)


This article evaluates the nature and incidence of equal opportunities (EO) policies in the UK using data from the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS 98).The article identifies the types of workplaces that are more likely to adopt formal gender, ethnicity, disability and age policies. It then assesses whether the policies are ‘substantive’ or merely ‘empty shells’: first, by evaluating the extent to which workplaces that have adopted EO policies have also adopted supporting EO practices; and second, by evaluating the proportion of employees who have access to EO practices in workplaces where they have been adopted. On balance, the ‘empty shell’ argument is more convincing. Smaller workplaces, private sector workplaces and workplaces without an HR or personnel specialist are identified as being more likely to have an ‘empty shell’ policy.While unionized workplaces are more likely to have a formal policy, those policies are no less likely to constitute ‘empty shells’. Finally, the policy, economic and legal implications of the findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-506
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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