Equality Facility Time

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2015 National Delegate Conference
11 February 2015
Carried as Amended

At the Discrimination Law Conference in January 2014 Professor Sir Bob Hepple QC said that “if a new government enacts only one new piece of equality legislation it should be to require equality representatives at workplaces” – such representatives would require a legal right to time off to “be involved in drawing up and enforcing employment and pay equity plans”.

Currently equality representatives have no legal right to time off to undertake their trade union equality duties. The TUC argued in a 2005 submission to the former Women and Work Commission that trade union equality reps (in UNISON this would include Equality Co-ordinators and SOG officers) should be given the same statutory rights as learning representatives – paid time off for training and for undertaking their role. Training included developing the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to undertake the role effectively and capacity building for effective engagement with employers.

TUC research published in 2010 concluded that a key factor in equality reps effectiveness was the amount of time they were able to spend on their duties and without a statutory right that time was limited. The research reported that equality reps greatly enhance employers’ equality work and have a positive impact in the workplace. There was evidence of employers support with one saying “It is in our interests to develop competent equality reps.”

The TUC research also found that:

1)Though less than half of equality reps surveyed were women (46%) this was unsurprising given that the role is largely undertaken by reps with other established roles due to the lack of specific time off;

2)63% of those who had not had previous rep experience were women which indicated that the role was attracting women members into union activity;

3)Equality reps are more likely than other union reps to be from an ethnic minority suggesting these roles can attract Black members into activity.

This matter is especially important for UNISON given that:

a)Nearly three quarters of our members are women, a majority of whom are low paid. The lack of equality facility time is therefore indirectly discriminatory in that women’s time is heavily pressurised due to caring responsibilities;

b)A significant proportion of UNISON members are Black and the lack of equality time impairs Black activist’s abilities to challenge discrimination;

c)Organising for disability workplace equality cannot be achieved on snatches of time taken from other responsibilities;

d)The lack of equality time lowers the profile of LGBT equality work which particularly needs to be ‘out and proud’.

Four years of the coalition government and its austerity policies have rolled back equality successes and significantly increased workplace inequality. The lack of equalities facility time seriously impairs equality activist’s abilities to challenge discrimination in the workplace – it is becoming a 2nd class matter for better days. The implicit – if not explicit – perception is that equality is not as important as other trade union issues.

Now more than ever equality should be centre stage. The inequitable effects of the austerity policies need tackling:

i)How zero hour contracts affect discriminated against groups;

ii)Disproportionate redundancies affecting Black workers, the growth of low paid casual jobs and the need for a living wage and pay equity plans;

iii)Effects of the increase in stress and mental ill health on workers and employer sickness absence monitoring resulting in ‘survival of the fittest’ and the particular impact on disabled workers;

iv)Cuts to hard built LGBT services.

Conference requests the National Executive Council to:

A)Discuss facility time for equality reps with the TUC with a view to raising it with the Labour Party;

B)Work with Labour Link to influence the Labour Party to commit to the extension of facility time to equality reps.