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Bromsgrove District Council Equal Opportunity Policy

Introduction

Bromsgrove District Council recognises that equality of opportunity is fundamental to maximising the potential and performance of everyone to deliver its priorities. We strive to create a positive working environment through education and awareness-raising of equality and diversity issues. The Council opposes all forms of unlawful or unfair discrimination and the success of this policy depends upon the full support and commitment of everyone.

Scope

The Equal Opportunity Policy pulls together the Council's commitment to equality within the workplace and applies to all aspects of employment and vocational training including work experience within the remit of the Council. It is in the Council's interests and in the interests of all who work for the Council that we ensure that the human resources, talents and skills available throughout the community are considered when employment opportunities arise.

It applies to all aspects of:

  • Recruitment, selection and appointment of staff
  • Training and development of staff including appraisal
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures and their application
  • Sickness absence and performance management
  • Promotion including temporary or permanent and secondment opportunities
  • Selection for redundancy and all other forms of dismissal
  • Dignity at Work

The policy applies to all managers, employees, prospective employees of the Council, contractors and Elected Members.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. As part of the Equality Act 2010, public authorities must comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The General Equality Duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not

In addition, public authorities also have specific duties and must do the following:

  • Publish equality information at least once a year to show how they've complied with the equality duty,
  • Prepare and publish equality objectives at least every four years.

The Councils Equality Strategy sets out how the Council is meeting its commitments under the Equality Act 2010.

The Act covers nine protected characteristics and these are the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful.  Every person has one or more of these protected characteristics, so the Act protects everyone against unfair treatment.

The characteristics are:

Age - The Act protects people of all ages. However, different treatment because of age is not unlawful if you can justify it (for example it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim); age is the only protected characteristic that allows employers to justify direct discrimination.

Disability - Under the Act a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Please see the Disability in Employment Policy at Appendix 1 for further information.

Gender Reassignment - The Act covers individuals before, during and after transition; it does not require a person to be under medical supervision to be protected. gender reassignment is the wording used in the Equality Act; transgender (or trans) is now the more accepted terminology. The Council understands there are many different identities which fall under the trans umbrella, including identities outside of the gender binary.

Marriage or Civil Partnership (in employment only) - The Act protects employees who are married or in a civil partnership; single people are not protected.

Pregnancy and Maternity - A woman is protected against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity during her pregnancy and any statutory maternity leave. Absence due to pregnancy-related illness cannot be considered when making a decision about their employment.

Race - Under the Act race includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. Caste, whilst not explicitly referenced, can be considered under this protected characteristic as an ethnic origin, although the definition of caste is contested.

Religion or Belief- Religion refers to any religion (with a clear structure and belief system) but the protected characteristic also covers a lack of religion. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief or lack of; to be defined as a belief it must affect a substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

The Council is committed to fighting prejudice, fear and hatred against specific religions, such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. As such, we adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism:

anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. The full details are in Appendix 2.

Sex – Both men and women are protected under the Equality Act.

Sexual orientation - The Act protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual people.

Our Commitment

As an employer we recognise and accept that intentionally or unintentionally, people can and do experience discrimination, social exclusion or unequal treatment. However it is our commitment that we will do everything we can to prevent this from happening for all our employees, contractors and Elected Members. Where we do find inequality, we will take steps to challenge it in all its forms.

We will show our commitment to equality by:

  • Promoting equality in all that we do
  • Giving everyone a fair and equal chance of obtaining employment, promotion, development and training opportunities with the council while aiming for a workforce that reflects the make-up of the local population
  • Ensuring that contractors and other organisations that are providing a service to or on behalf of the Council are required to meet, and are complying with The Equality Act and with the equality policies of the Council as set out in our terms of contracts or agreements with suppliers
  • Acting promptly on any complaints of harassment, discrimination or bullying
  • Monitoring, reviewing and assessing our policies and procedures for their impact on equality on an ongoing basis
  • By being an exemplary employer and employer of choice, create an organisation that values all staff and is fair, supportive and free from discrimination, harassment or bullying
  • Regularly consulting our staff and listening to what they say

Leadership and Responsibilities

The Council’s leadership takes full responsibility for this Equal Opportunity Policy. It is the responsibility of the Council’s Cabinet and Senior Management Team to ensure that we are meeting our legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

The Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive are fully committed to the implementation of this policy. The Head of Business Transformation is responsible for all procedures relating to recruitment, selection, career development, discipline and grievance, and for ensuring that these are carried out in accordance with the Equal Opportunity Policy, supported by Human Resources and the Policy Team.

Managers are responsible for fostering a culture in which compliance with this policy is regarded as integral to their area of work. Managers are expected to actively promote the principles of equality and take account of the need to ensure equality of access and opportunity in the planning and delivery of their services.

In managing staff, managers are expected to identify appropriate development for themselves and their staff to meet the needs of their respective areas in relation to equality.

Staff are expected to behave in a respectful and fair manner to everyone that works for the Council, visits the Council or receives a service from the Council.  All breaches of this policy will be taken very seriously and the Council will deal with individuals through the staff disciplinary procedures.

Everyone will be made aware of Council policies and the standards that are expected of them through induction, regular reviews and training. 

Elected Members have an important role to play in championing equality within the council and are obliged to give “due regard” to equality in the decisions they make and must be able demonstrate clearly that they have done so.

Policies and Practices

The Council has a wide range of policies in place for our staff and prospective employees. These policies provide support and clear guidance about what is expected of them and what they can expect from us as an employer. We will continue to review the range of policies and be pro-active in promoting and supporting equality in the workforce. These include:

  • Policies and procedures covering Recruitment Selection and Employment
  • Harassment and Bullying Policy
  • Dignity at Work Policy
  • Flexible Working
  • Procurement, Tendering and Contractor Policies/ Strategy
  • Equality Strategy
  • Members Code of Conduct

The Equal Opportunities Policy pulls together the Council’s commitment to equality within the workplace and to support its delivery there are specific areas covered in the appendices including a Disability in Employment Policy and Menopause Guidance.

Consultation and Monitoring

This Policy and any subsequent revisions will be subject to standard consultation processes with the aim of reaching agreement on the content of the Policy and commitment to abide by the Policy between Corporate Management Team, Staff and their representatives and the Council Executive. 

Appendix 1 Disability in Employment Policy

Introduction

Bromsgrove District Council is committed to developing, maintaining and supporting a culture of equality and diversity in employment in which staff and applicants are treated equitably regardless of any disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010.

Defining the Law     

The Equality Act 2010 replaced the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 (as amended) and sections of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001, providing extended legal protection for disabled people in various areas, including employment. It states that:

'A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.'

‘Substantial’ is defined by the Act as 'more than minor or trivial' and impermanent is considered to have a long-term effect if, it has lasted for at least 12 months, it is likely to last for at least 12 months, or it is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person.

The definition of disability covers a wide range of physical and mental impairments whether they are from birth or have been acquired during a persons lifetime. The protection against discrimination because of a disability is from the date of a diagnosis regardless of whether any symptoms are having an effect on the persons ability to carry out “Day to day activities” as defined in the Equality Act. People who have had a disability in the past are also protected against discrimination, harassment and victimisation and this may be particularly relevant for people with fluctuating and/or recurring impairments/health conditions.

Discrimination arising from Disability

Discrimination is when you are treated unfairly and puts you at a disadvantage when compared with non-disabled people. This could be because someone is purposefully discriminating against you or it could be because an employer works in a way that unintentionally puts the individual at a disadvantage.

Direct discrimination

This is when someone is treated less favourably than someone else because they are disabled e.g. an employee with a medical condition needs to take more time off work than their colleagues to attend medical appointment

Discrimination by perception

This gives legal protection for people who are mistakenly perceived to be disabled e.g. a candidate is not offered a job because the prospective employer suspects they have a mental health condition (even though they do not) and they are concerned they will not be able to do the job.

Discrimination by association

Non-disabled people are also protected from discrimination by association to a disabled person. This might be a friend, partner, colleague or relative e.g. an employee is not given a promotion because their manager is concerned that their employees caring responsibilities (for their disabled partner) will impact on their ability to complete the work.

Indirect discrimination

When there is a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way but has a more detrimental effect on some people than others e.g. a policy requires all employees to register any absence on an online system. The system is however not accessible to assistive technology. This could be seen as indirect discrimination against an employee with a visual impairment using such technology.

It is important to note that in some cases the policy or practice may be justified. For example, the decision to introduce the online system might be justified if it is more efficient and saves time. However, steps need to taken to ensure that the online system is accessible and provide reasonable adjustments for employees who need them.

Making Reasonable Adjustments

Under the terms of the Act, employers are required to make reasonable changes to the workplace and to employment arrangements so that a person with a disability is not at any substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person. The requirement applies to contract workers as well as directly employed staff. The implications of the requirement are explained below.

Reasonable changes

A number of factors influence the decision as to whether changes are reasonable. These include the cost of the measures (financial and in terms of the disruption caused), the ease of making the change, and the extent to which the alteration will improve the situation for the employee or job applicant with a disability. In all cases, the person concerned must be consulted.

Changes to the workplace

Reasonable changes may be needed to the physical features of the workplace, including fixtures and fittings, furniture and stairways. These changes might, for example, include widening doorways to make possible wheelchair access, altering the lighting for people with restricted vision, allocating a parking space and ensuring that there are adequate toilet facilities.

Changes to employment arrangements

The Act applies to all stages of the employment process, including recruitment setting of pay and conditions, training and dismissal. Reasonable adjustments might include: altering working hours; allowing absences during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment, or treatment; supplying additional training; modifying procedures for testing or assessment.

Health and Safety

Those with disabilities are not necessarily less safe at work than other staff. Special arrangements may, however, be necessary to ensure that a person's disability does not create any hazard either for the person concerned or for others. Specific First Aid training may be necessary, for example, where a member of staff suffers from epilepsy.

Absence

Absence from work through ill-health is normally no more prevalent among people with a disability than among staff generally. If a person with a disability is absent from work because of the disability and the amount of time taken off is little more than the acceptable level for staff generally, this is unlikely to be a substantial reason justifying less favourable or discriminatory treatment. If when taking this into account the sickness record of a member of staff with a disability is unsatisfactory, the advice and help of the appropriate authority should be sought, but in other respects the person concerned should be treated no differently from other staff. The appropriate authority will contact the Occupational Health Service as necessary

Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of the Human Resources Department to:

  • Advise and support line managers in a consistent and timely way, in cases where further action by the line manager may be required.
  • Provide specialist advice and training to managers/supervisors to assist them in the delivery of this policy.
  • Provide line managers with advice on the application of the disability provisions of the Equality Act and any other relevant legislation

Appendix 2  International Definition of Anti-Semitism                         

Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Manifestations might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Appendix 3 Menopause Guidance

Introduction

Bromsgrove District Council is committed to developing, maintaining and supporting a culture of equality and diversity in employment, including fostering an age and gender inclusive workforce.

Women now make up almost half the UK workforce and there are an estimated 4.4 million women over the age of 50 currently in work (ONS 2019). At Bromsgrove District Council just over half of our employees are women; well over half of whom are over 50.

For some women, going through the menopause may be uneventful and may not impact on their work but for others it may become difficult to function effectively at work and their working conditions may exacerbate their symptoms. Research shows that the majority of women are unwilling to discuss menopause-related health problems with their line manager, nor ask for the support or adjustments that they may need.

As an organisation, we have a duty of care for the health and safety of our employees. Legally, we must ensure we comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the workplace to risks to the health and safety of our employees.

We also need to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, where we have a duty not to discriminate and employees should be treated with respect in terms of their age and gender. Any detrimental treatment of a woman related to the menopause could represent direct or indirect sex discrimination. If symptoms amount to a mental or physical impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the individuals ability to carry out day-to-day activities, this could be classified as a disability under the Equality Act and failure to make reasonable adjustments could lead to a discrimination claim.

This guidance will help employees and managers by:

  • Ensuring everyone understands what menopause is and are clear on internal policies, guidance and practices (supported by Human Resources and the Policy Team)
  • Helping to create an environment in which everyone can openly and comfortably start conversations, or engage in discussions about menopause
  • Ensuring that women experiencing menopause symptoms feel able to discuss it and ask for support and any reasonable adjustments so they can continue to be successful in their roles and that women in the menopause or approaching the menopause know that it will be accommodated by their employer

Definitions

Menopause

Menopause is a natural stage of life when a woman’s oestrogen levels decile and she stops having periods. It is best described as a ‘transition’ as menopausal symptoms are typically experienced for several years. For most women it happens between the ages of 45 and 55.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause when a woman may experience changes, such as irregular periods or other menopausal symptoms. This can be years before the actual menopause.

Premature Ovarian Insufficiency

Premature Ovarian Insufficiency is when the menopause occurs under the age of 40. There is no clear cause for the early onset of menopause but it can be as a result of surgery, illness or medical treatments.

Symptoms may include:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Intimate body problems e.g. dryness
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased tiredness
  • Low mood, mood swings and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor concentration and memory loss
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Irregular and/or heavy periods
  • Muscular aches and/or joint pains
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Urinary tract infections

Responsibilities

All members of staff are responsible for:

  • Taking a personal responsibility to look after their own health
  • Being open and honest in conversations with managers/HR
  • Being willing to help and support their colleagues

Bromsgrove District Council will:

  • Ensure that the menopause is highlighted in health and well-being practices so all staff know that the Council has a positive attitude to the issue
  • Ensure guidance on the menopause is freely available in the workplace
  • Ensure that line managers attend awareness training and have access to resources to understand how the menopause can affect employees at work and what adjustments may be necessary to support women who are experiencing the menopause
  • Provide wider menopause awareness sessions open to all employees
  • Where appropriate, carry out risk assessments to consider the specific needs of menopausal women and ensure that the working environment will not exacerbate their symptoms

All line managers should:

  • Treat every employee as an individual, as the symptoms of the menopause can vary a lot; do not make assumptions
  • Have regular conversations with employees
  • Be able to have open but sensitive discussions about the menopause, respecting the personal nature of the conversation and confidentiality
  • Keep a record of agreed support to ensure that the support/adjustments are provided and review as required
  • Ensure that reasonable consideration is given to the potential impact of menopausal symptoms when looking at sickness absence or performance issues
  • Be aware that workplace stress can worsen menopausal symptoms
  • Consider flexible working arrangements that meet the needs of menopausal women and the business
  • Consider symptom support/reasonable adjustments

Symptom Support/Suggested Adjustments

Some examples of symptom support to consider:

Hot flushes

  • Request temperature control for their work area, such as a fan on their desk, moving near a window, or away from a heat source
  • Easy access to cold drinking water
  • Have access to a bathroom or a quiet area if they need to manage a severe hot flush

Heavy/light periods

  • Have access to bathroom facilities
  • Allowance for more frequent bathroom visits
  • Ensure sanitary products are available in bathrooms

Brain fog/poor concentration

  • Discuss if there are times of the day when concentration is better or worse and adjust working pattern/practice if possible
  • Review workload
  • Provide books for lists, action boards, or other memory-assisting equipment
  • Offer quiet space to work

Additional support

Support can also be accessed over the phone through the employee assistance programme (EAP), which is able to provide 24 hour employee rights and emotional support information, as well as guidance for managers. If appropriate, occupational health support could also be arranged.

Relevant policies, legislation & further information

Policies

Equal Opportunity Policy

Flexible Working Policy

Sickness Absence Policy

Health & Safety Policies

Dignity at Work Policy

Legislation

Employment Rights Act 1996

Flexible Working Regulations 2014

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 & Management  Regulations 1999

Equality Act 2010

Data Protection Act 2018 & General Data Protection Regulation 2016