- 2016 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
- 29 February 2016
- Carried as Amended
Conference notes that the charity Stonewall produces an annual workplace equality index, which it describes as an evidence-based benchmarking tool used by employers to assess their achievements and progress on lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) equality in the workplace. From 2016, they have pledged to also assess achievements and progress on transgender equality within the index.
In 2015, over 400 employers entered for the index, the highest number to date. Stonewall showcases the 100 employers it gives the highest rating as ‘the best employers for LGB staff’. Employers can seek to boost their rating by becoming Stonewall Equality Champions, which means hiring Stonewall expertise to look at their policy and practice. Currently, local government, education and health employers dominate the index, with private companies and government departments also increasingly represented. In 2015, the Environment Agency was one of the very few WET companies on this index, coming in at number 72.
Conference acknowledges the long-time concerns from the UNISON lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group, other unions and the TUC about how Stonewall has operated the index. Repeated attempts over the years to work with Stonewall have been unsuccessful and both the index and their best practice guides have made no reference to trade unions or acknowledgement of our role in representing and supporting our members or negotiating policies, terms and conditions. The index strongly pushes for LGB staff forums, which can be highly unrepresentative of the full diversity of LGB staff and which can be used to bypass consultation with trade unions over LGB equality issues.
However, conference notes that competitions such as these can be very attractive to employers, who see benefits to their public image, in terms of recruiting and retaining staff and for boosting business by enhancing their customer appeal. Conference further notes that many of the highly ranked employers within the index are those where UNISON has had a long history of LGBT organising. UNISON branches in other service groups have found that the index can be used as a tool to push our LGBT demands higher up the bargaining agenda.
Conference welcomes early indications that Stonewall is now willing to take some steps to acknowledge trade unions in its guidance and workplace equality index.
Conference therefore calls on the WET service group executive, working with the business and environment equal opportunities working party, to:
1. seek information from WET branches about contact with Stonewall by the employer
2. encourage these branches to seek advice from UNISON branches where one of their employers is already part of the workplace equality index on how to gain maximum benefit from work with Stonewall and what pitfalls to avoid, via the national LGBT committee.