Disability Equality Duty – One Year On

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2007 National LGBT Conference
19 September 2007

Conference celebrates the past year during which we have witnessed great strides in equality – goods and services protection on grounds of sexual orientation, the gender equality duty and the civil partnership act.

Conference notes that it is also twelve months since the Disability Equality Duty came into force. Conference further notes that enforcement and advisory functions have been passed to the newly established Commission for Equality for Human Rights (CEHR) and that the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has now been disbanded. Due to the CEHR having responsibility for all areas of equality, it is now even more essential that UNISON and our members monitor employers and service providers on the use of the equality duties.

Conference recalls its previous discussions on how the Gender Equality Duty can be used to promote equality for the full diversity of women, highlighting the needs of black, disabled and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) women. Conference believes that the Disability Equality Duty can be used similarly to promote equality for women, black and LGBT disabled people, as workers, service users and union members.

The general disability duty requires:

1.Elimination of harassment of disabled people in relation to their impairment or condition;

2.Taking into account disabilities even if this means more favourable treatment;

3.Promotion of positive attitudes to disabled people;

4.Encouraging participation of disabled people in public life.

Recent guidance published by the DRC focusing on Social Housing referred to the need to consider the diversity of disabled people including disabled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The disability duty requires disabled people to be involved rather then merely consulted and therefore it is crucial that branches are aware and encourage and support their disabled members in organising around disability issues in employment and service delivery including negotiating facilitation time. Many employers have set up employees group and have relied on these solely as a mechanism for consulting and involving their disabled staff including on bargaining and negotiating issues bypassing trade unions.

Conference welcomes the comprehensive UNISON guidance on all the public sector duties updated in June 2007 and believes that this is an essential branch document. Conference further welcomes the development of UNISON’s equality scheme and believes that this is a vital tool for branches in promoting equality both within the union and the workplace.

Conference instructs the National LGBT Committee in liaison with the National Disabled Members Committee and where appropriate other National SOG Committees to:

A.Request that the June 2007 guidance is publicised and distributed to all branch secretaries emphasising the importance of the equality duties and UNISON’s equality scheme and of being involved and consulted in the employers corporate equality strategies due to the potential impact on employment issues;

B.Review existing policy on employees groups including results from organising survey and consider further actions;

C.Publicise the main aspects of Disability Equality Duty and how it can be used creatively so that due regard is given to the needs of disabled and black LGBT people.