A revised Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy was approved at the Formal Unison/Employer Consultation meeting on 22 June 2022. The policy requires approval at Finance and Policy Committee.
The Group Head of Organisational Excellence presented her report outlining that the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy had been reviewed and that the updated policy had been presented to the Formal Unison and Employer Consultation meeting on 22 June 2022.
It was explained that the Policy set out the council’s approach to equalities as an employer and a service provider and made it clear commitment to eliminating any form of unlawful discrimination in the services provided. It also made clear how a member of staff or customer can make a complaint if they believe they have not been treated fairly.
Although the Equalities Act had not changed since 2010, the Council was required to review its policy on a regular basis to ensure that it was up to date with best practice. One of these elements was an understanding of Diversity and Inclusion that had changed over time and one of the objectives of the policy was to be respectful and accepting of differences, including those not covered by the Equality Act. An example of this was to recognise the increase in mental health conditions impacting on all sectors of society and therefore on the way that we support people.
The new policy was being presented to the Committee seeking approval for its formal adoption.
Various questions were asked. One surrounded diverse interview panels and whether the council operated the removal of names and ages on CVs to combat any potential bias in the recruitment process. Another question was if staff had any issues, could they raise these with HR and have the facility to do this anonymously. Looking at the council’s complaints process, policy and procedure, although this could be found on-line, if a complainant did not have access to the internet, as this was a policy addressing equality issues, it was felt necessary to consider other alternatives and have these confirmed. Responses to these points were provided. The Group Head of Organisational Excellence confirmed that because of the recent restructure, she had not been responsible for Human Resources for some time but that she would be looking at all recruitment processes in detail and this was an area that would be reviewed alongside giving staff the ability to make anonymous complaints, some further detail was provided. Turning to the complaints policy, it was confirmed that it would be made very clear that paper versions were available and could be requested.
Another Councillor confirmed that he fully supported the revised policy but that he wished to receive reassurance that as an employer, Arun would stamp out any form of discrimination in the workforce to also include discrimination with political beliefs and did this exist within Arun. It was confirmed that this did not exist in Arun. Did the policy from an employer perspective, commit to doing this? It was explained that the council collected data as and when it recruited to monitor and to ensure that all job applicants were treated fairly and that there was no built in bias. Looking at positive discrimination, it was outlined that if the council felt the need to do address this at any time, then it would consider it very carefully as this was a very sensitive issue to deal with.
Having had the recommendation proposed by Councillor Pendleton and seconded by Councillor Stanley,
RESOLVED – That
(1) The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy be approved and formally adopted; and
(2) The Group Head of Organisational Excellence be authorised to make any further consequential changes to the Policy.
Before moving onto the next agenda item, the Chair, in line with the Constitution at Part 5, Section 2 – Committee Procedure Rule 8.1, confirmed that the Committee would need to adjourn at 9.00 pm unless a vote was undertaken to extend the length of the meeting by a further 30 minutes. Councillor Gunner then proposed to extend the meeting by this time to 9.30 pm, if needed, to ensure that all business on the agenda would be concluded. This was seconded by Councillor Pendleton and on being put to the vote this was unanimously agreed.