Inclusive equality policies in local government

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2017 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2017

This conference is proud that our predecessor local government unions were the first to place lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality on the bargaining agenda, starting with a 1976 NALGO conference decision to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination clauses in all collective agreements. This has developed over the decades, been taken up by other unions and the TUC, enshrined in legislation, and bargaining on lesbian and gay workers rights broadened to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers rights.

Conference acknowledges that at this time we are making little progress on equality, which is increasingly seen as a luxury in the workplace. However, conference notes that even in times of cuts, there are equality improvements that can be won with local government employers.

Conference notes that a growing number of local government workers identify with sexual orientations or gender identities outside of or in addition to traditional concepts of LGBT. Many identify as queer or non-binary – not identifying as solely male or female, rather identifying as both, neither or something entirely different. These workers can face particular ignorance and prejudice at work, experience harassment and face policies, systems and procedures, from dress codes to personnel databases, which do not acknowledge or accommodate their identity.

The first UK survey of the experiences of non-binary people, which included UNISON respondents, found that the vast majority had worries about being respected at work, nearly half said their manager was never or only sometimes supportive, and a fifth had been referred to with the wrong name and pronoun on purpose. The survey also found significant issues with unnecessarily gendered dress codes. Conference reaffirms its 2016 resolution on non-gendered dress codes which called on the SGE to work with the LGBT and women’s committees to draw up a model policy and best practice guide for local government.

Conference is clear that gender matters when it comes to tackling workplace sex discrimination, unequal pay and the host of other inequalities faced by women. However, conference believes that there are many gendered policies and practices in local government that have no place in furthering women’s equality and which exclude and ignore the existence of non-binary workers.

Conference notes that while non-binary gender identity is not currently recognised in UK law, our equality negotiations and campaigns have always led, rather than followed, the law.

Conference therefore calls on the service group executive to:

1)Review NJC and SJC national agreements and urge branches to review local policies for unnecessary gendering;

2)Work with the women’s and LGBT self-organised groups on guidance on inclusive language in agreements which raises awareness of non-binary identities;

3)Promote the guidance on non-gendered dress codes to local government branches, when available;

4)Encourage the negotiation of inclusive language in local government agreements and policies, and of inclusive practices and procedures across our local government workplaces.