Equality and Diversity Policy
1. Underlying Principles
Cheshire West and Chester Council respects and values differences, and as a major employer and provider of services, recognises the importance of setting out a clear commitment to promoting fairness and tackling discrimination. Since the Council was created in 2009, the two main pledges have been:
No Council employee or job applicant will receive less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, trade union activity, age, religion or belief, pregnancy or maternity, social or economic status, political beliefs, or will be disadvantaged by conditions or requirements which cannot be justified.
1.2 Service delivery
The Council, recognising its responsibilities as a provider of major services within the community, will ensure that its services, including the ones carried out in partnership with or on behalf of the Council, are available equally to all, regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or belief, pregnancy or maternity, social or economic status or political beliefs, making sure that no one is disadvantaged by conditions or requirements which cannot be justified.
1.3 These pledges are Cheshire West and Chester Council’s formal commitment to delivering fairness and removing the barriers that limit what people can do and can be. It is a promise that the Council will work hard to respond to local challenges, to tackle prejudice and improve the life chances and opportunities of those who face discrimination and disadvantage.
2.1 Diversity is about understanding, recognising, respecting and valuing differences.
2.2 Equality is about managing differences so that everyone has equality of opportunity through a fair and consistent approach to the application of rules and policies. We recognise that sometimes this will mean treating people differently.
3. Legislative Context
3.1 The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to consolidate and strengthen previous anti-discrimination legislation. It covers the following nine protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
3.2 However, the Council recognises that discrimination can occur outside of the strict definitions in the Equality Act, which is why the commitment in section 1 above is wider.
3.3 Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (the Public Sector Equality Duty) places a general duty on the Council and others carrying out public functions to have due regard to the need to
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance equality of opportunity between different groups
- Foster good relations between different groups
3.4 In meeting the requirements of the Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duty, the Council will, in its decision making, policy setting and service delivery, have due regard and will ensure equality is integrated into our work and that we positively contribute to the advancement of equality and fostering good relations.
4. Roles and Responsibilities
4.1 Cheshire West and Chester Council as a service provider
- Provides appropriate, accessible and effective services to the whole community
- Provides clear and accessible information about services in a variety of formats and languages as appropriate
- Develops, reviews and monitors services to ensure that they do not unlawfully discriminate, and identify where improvements can be made
- Ensures that appropriate consultation and engagement methods are used to enable the community to have a say on the way we plan and deliver services
4.2 Cheshire West and Chester Council as a commissioner of services
- Ensures that contractors, suppliers, volunteers and partners are aware of the Council’s position on equality and diversity and understand their obligation to provide services that are free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation
- Ensures that our contract monitoring processes are inclusive of equality considerations
- Ensures that when we purchase or commission services from organisations we are confident that these organisations respect equality and diversity and have in place an Equality and Diversity Policy that is at least as robust as ours
- Ensures that equality and diversity is built into our processes and procedures around procurement and commissioning
- Ensures that we work closely with commissioned services in joint training, awareness initiatives and events.
4.3 Cheshire West and Chester Council as an employer
- Promotes equality of opportunity for all staff
- Makes reasonable adjustments to allow staff to fulfil their potential and take action, alongside staff groups and other workplace representatives where needed, to tackle inequality and promote diversity
- Protects and promotes the health, wellbeing and safety of all staff, including taking appropriate action to safeguard staff from discrimination from third parties
- Ensures our recruitment and selection processes are fair and do not discriminate against anyone
- Monitors our workforce composition regularly to identify any issues
- Enables, encourages and supports staff to report discrimination or harassment promoting dignity and respect for all, and where individual differences and the contributions of all staff are recognised and valued
- Maintains a zero tolerance approach to discrimination and bullying on the grounds of any of the protected characteristics listed in section 3 above
- Facilitates staff to champion equality, diversity and inclusion
- Makes opportunities for training, development and progress available to all staff, who will be helped and encouraged to develop their full potential, so their talents and resources can be fully utilised to maximise the efficiency of the organisation
5. Governance and Accountability
5.1 All Elected Members and employees have responsibility to abide by this policy.
5.2 Elected Members are responsible for leading the equality and diversity agenda, providing oversight and scrutiny, and community leadership
5.3 The Equality Steering Group, chaired by the Deputy Chief Executive - People, and including directors, elected members, trade union and employee representatives, is responsible for the overall management and strategic direction of the equality and diversity agenda.
5.4 Directorate equality groups, chaired by a director, are responsible for ensuring the implementation of this policy in their service areas, and for providing a link between the strategic and the operational equality and diversity groups.
5.5 Human Resources lead on equality and diversity issues in respect of employment.
5.6 The Equality and Diversity Managers advise, support and engage with employees, elected members, stakeholders and community members to ensure a focus on the principles and practice of equality, diversity and inclusion internally and externally.
5.7 All staff have individual responsibility for promoting and delivering equality in the workplace and in serving the community.
6. Grievances and complaints
6.1 The Council takes seriously complaints of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination by fellow employees, customers, suppliers, visitors, the public and any others in the course of the organisation’s work activities. Such acts will be dealt with as misconduct under the grievance and/or disciplinary procedures, and any appropriate action will be taken. Particularly serious complaints could amount to gross misconduct and lead to dismissal without notice
6.2 All staff should understand they, as well as their employer, can be held liable for acts of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination, in the course of their employment.
7. Monitoring and measuring progress
7.1 The Council is committed to measuring its performance in equality and diversity through independent peer assessment provided by the Local Government Association. The Equality Framework for Local Government provides a robust and comprehensive performance framework, and the Council’s single equality objective, agreed in April 2016, is to maintain the Excellent Level of the Framework.
7.2 The Council will also make use of other external mechanisms to independently assess performance as appropriate. These may include the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the Disability Confident scheme.
7.3 The Council’s internal equality and diversity mechanisms outlined in paragraph 5, both officer and Elected Member led, will monitor the effectiveness of the policy, with directorate and senior management teams having oversight of its application in their respective services.
7.4 The Equality and Diversity Policy is fully supported by Council, senior management and has been agreed with trade unions and employee representatives.