Joined Up Equality – Promoting the Use of Single Equality Schemes and Equality Impact Assessments with NHS Employers

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2006 National LGBT Conference
21 September 2006

This Conference notes the requirements for Equality Schemes and Equality Impact Assessments that are required under the provisions for the ‘positive duties’ relating to race, gender and disability.

Conference further notes:

1.Recent equality legislation including the Employment Equality Regulations covering sexual orientation and religion or belief; the Civil Partnership Act; the provisions of the Equality Act (2006) covering discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of religion or belief and sexual orientation; the obligation of the government to introduce similar protections on the grounds of gender reassignment by December 2007 at the latest and the coming into force of regulations on discrimination in employment on the grounds of age;

2.The setting up of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights which will come into force in 2007, covering all strands of equality;

3.The forthcoming Single Equality Act which will harmonise existing equality enactments;

4.The recognition by the Departments of Health of the need for action on all main equality strands and the moves towards the implementation of single equality schemes and equality impact assessments;

5.The recognition of equality as a core dimension within the Knowledge and Skills Framework which applies to all NHS staff.

In spite of some significant developments Conference notes the failure of work on equality and diversity to be adequately embedded within the NHS and as a result progress has been at best superficial, patchy and ultimately nugatory. As an example of this, many NHS employers still are not in full compliance with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. In addition many NHS employers adopted an approach of doing the bare minimum to comply with legislation, failing to see the need for broader action to promote equality.

Conference therefore welcomes moves by the Department of Health and a significant number of public bodies towards a Single Equality Scheme covering all equality strands covered by legislation and the potential value of single equality impact assessments covering all policies, procedures, functions, service changes and projects on grounds of race, gender, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Conference believes that, linked to a proper implementation of the equality dimension of the KSF (Knowledge and Skills Framework), can lead to real and sustained improvements for both service delivery and standards of employment, making equality everyone’s concern. In addition Conference believes that UNISON branches can play a significant role in ensuring that this becomes a reality so that there is a real culture of equality at every level both for staff and patients, service users and clients.

Conference wishes however to underscore that work undertaken to prepare Race Equality Schemes as well as schemes covering disability and gender duties must not be lost or diminished in moving to a Single Equality Scheme covering all strands. In particular Conference underlines the importance of adequate training and a robust level of support within each NHS employer towards the equalities agenda in order for Single Equality Schemes and Equality Impact Assessments to achieve their goal.

Conference instructs the Service Group Executive to:

A.Press the Department’s of Health to develop and publicise their own work on Single Equality Schemes and Impact Assessments;

B.Publicise examples of successful single equality schemes and the successful implementation of single equality impact assessments;

C.Encourage regional health committees to seek to identify the implementation of equality schemes (including separate schemes for race, disability and gender as well as single equality schemes) and to identify progress in achieving Equality Impact Assessments;

D.Work with Self Organised Groups to identify areas of best practice and identify how best UNISON branches can support this at the local level within the NHS as well as identifying examples of good practice in other service groups;

E.Report to the 2008 Health Service Group Conference on progress in this area;

Conference therefore asks that all health branches consider how best to:

I.Press their employers to introduce robust equality schemes across the equality strands of race, gender, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender identity, underlining that while current duties exist for race, disability and gender that legislation covering other areas as well as the forthcoming introduction of the Single Equality Act;

II.Seek to access training for stewards and equality officers on how best to use Equality Impact Assessments to bring about real improvements across all equality strands;

III.Share examples of best practice at regional level so that these can be shared more widely;

IV.Actively encourage stewards and equality officers to become actively involved in ensuring that Equality Impact Assessments are a key feature in terms of ensuring equality at the local level.