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Equality and Diversity Policy

Policy Statement
It is our policy that everyone who comes into contact with East Devon District Council shall be treated equally and with respect regardless of:

  • Gender, gender reassignment or sexual orientation
  • Disability (physical, mental or learning disabilities and other limitations which may not fall into the legal definition of disability, for example being frail)
  • Race, colour, ethnic or national origin
  • Age
  • Religion or belief (any religion, religious belief or philosophical belief)
  • Marital, social, economic status or responsibility for dependants
  • Political beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Unrelated criminal convictions

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The Council’s Commitments

East Devon is an area characterised by its rural environment, its elderly population, its low numbers of people from black and minority ethnic groups, its in-migration both of permanent residents and tourists, and its general affluence.

There are evident and widespread issues of limited accessibility, of infirmity, and disability. In a dispersed population, such as East Devon, people who are, for example, from a different racial or cultural background, with special needs, ex-offenders or others who do not fit into the usual stereotypes of family and social structure may feel isolated and may not wish to draw public attention to their needs. Equally with an older population the needs of the young might be overlooked.

This type of exclusion may mean that some groups do not get the full benefit of the services that are available to others, or they may be stigmatised and made to feel unaccepted, which can affect their mental health and well being.

The Council has a responsibility to all of the people who live and work in its area. Furthermore it is taking steps to ensure that visitors are welcomed, not least to support its wish to be a destination for national and international travellers.

For these reasons the Council has a duty to ensure that no one is excluded from enjoying the benefits of the Council's or the district's services. Equally the Council as a local leader must not only set an example, but also encourage others into good practice.

The Council values, respects and encourages diversity of employees, customers and suppliers.

The Council embraces variety by recognising individual and group differences as an opportunity to harness creativity and build continuous improvement.

The Council is committed to ensuring services are equally accessible to all and that services (and information about services) are designed to meet the diverse and changing needs of our service users. The Council will take positive action to counteract discrimination in the provision of its services.

As an ‘employer of choice’ and one of the largest employers in the District, the Council will act to encourage diversity and ensure equal access to its jobs at all levels. The Council is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination and to creating an atmosphere at work that is conducive to individual growth and development.

It also recognises that avoidance of multiple discrimination (for example discrimination against the same individual on the grounds of both gender and race) is an important element of this policy.

This Policy will support the achievement of the objectives outlined in the Equality Standard.

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How will we go about it?

In providing services to the public, the Council will:

  • review and improve its services regularly at corporate and service level to make sure they respond to the needs of all parts of the community
  • take action on issues of major importance to the various communities including racial harassment and attack, women’s safety and access in the community
  • carry out impact and needs assessments for Council services to identify groups whose needs are less well met by Council services and identify specific resources to implement them
  • prepare and adopt service strategies that properly represent the community
  • improve access to the Council’s services by providing appropriate information, outreach services, translation and interpreting services, mini-com facilities, signing, training of relevant staff and adaptation of buildings lead, train and encourage staff to become responsible for the achievement of equality of opportunities in their service
  • ensure that the specifications for contracted out or purchased services require contractors and sub-contractors to meet the needs of all sections of the community and monitor their performance
  • as an aid to the improvement of service quality, take steps to ensure that the workforce of each service better reflects the composition of the local community
  • monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of all our services in meeting the needs of all parts of the community. This will include monitoring information about use and nonuse of Council service, equality action planning and equality target setting. The analysis of this information will be used to plan our services
  • audit and scrutinise its services using national and locally developed performance indicators.

As an employer the Council will:

  • introduce policies and practices that reflect the diverse needs of the community
  • regularly monitor the composition of the workforce to ensure that there is fairness in its employment policies and practices
  • make use of equality target setting where appropriate
  • ensure that our employee development and training policies for all our employees give fair and equitable attention to the needs of underrepresented groups
  • continue to take determined action to ensure that employees are protected from all forms of harassment and are not the perpetrators of any harassment
  • ensure that all parts of the community are aware of the Council’s job opportunities and that our recruitment and selection procedures lead to the appointment of the person
  • most suited to the job when matched against the Person Specification and Job Description
  • comply with its legal obligations as to equal pay for men and women
  • adhere to the commitments outlined for users of the disability symbol. These are that the Council will:
    • interview all applicants with a disability who met the minimum criteria
    • consult with employees with a disability
    • make every effort to retain employees who become disabled
    • develop awareness
    • review progress and keep people informed.

The Council will seek to promote a more effective ‘voice’ for groups, which may feel isolated, by:

  • setting up new means of consultation and involvement in the Council’s decision making that are more appropriate to their needs. This will form part of the Council’s consultation strategy and work on the Community Strategy
  • developing existing means of consultation and involvement
  • advocating their views to other key bodies that have significant effects on their lives
  • encouraging individuals and groups to express their own views with confidence and promoting opportunities for them to do so
  • working to ensure that all parts of the community have an equal opportunity to vote in local and national elections
  • discussing issues of under-representation with the local political parties responsible for nominating candidates.

In its relationship with other bodies and interests, the Council will:

  • recognise and value the diversity that exists in the voluntary and community sector
  • ensure equal access to the Council’s support through grant aid and in other ways
  • seek to ensure equal access to other sources of funding and support
  • ensure that the bodies supported by the Council through grant aid and in other ways have effective equal opportunities policies
  • take action to ensure that the talents of the usually under-represented groups are developed to the full.

Not all the measures set out above will be taken immediately; the Council will adopt a Corporate Equality Plan to deal with some of the detail.

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Specific Policy Areas

The following information provides detail about the forms and types of discrimination that are covered by legislation.

Discrimination in detail

Direct discrimination takes place when a person is treated less favourably than others in the same circumstances, for example due to their sex, sexual orientation or race.

Indirect discrimination is defined in law as where a ‘an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice’ would put people having for example a particular gender, at a particular disadvantage compared with others of another gender. This is unless that provision can be objectively justified.

The concept of indirect discrimination exists within sex, race, sexual orientation and religion/belief, but not within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

An employer may be liable for victimisation of an employee by their colleagues after bringing a claim of discrimination or giving evidence on behalf of another colleague who has brought a claim of discrimination. The victimisation would include being cold shouldered or denied a promotion.

Harassment is unwarranted behaviour that is objectionable to the recipient. It has many forms including physical contact, intimidation, bullying, threatening behaviour, derogatory references, remarks, jokes that are found offensive or objectionable, displaying or distributing obscene or offensive materials and making assumptions about people.

Currently, the law offers protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender, gender reassignment, marital status, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, disability and religious belief. Legislation will cover discrimination on the grounds of age in 2006. However, the Council’s Equality and Diversity Policy applies to a broader range of groups (set out in the Policy Statement on page 1).

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Gender, gender reassignment or sexual orientation

Men and women may experience disadvantage from both direct and indirect discrimination. This may be that they are experiencing greater difficulty in achieving advancement in the workplace due to their sex or are subject to sexual harassment.

Lesbian women, gay men and bisexuals may experience discrimination in society – especially where high levels of intolerance exist. Many people who are lesbian or gay do not feel safe enough to acknowledge their sexual orientation to the wider world. As a result they have the daily experience of denying a major part of their own identity. Coming out and being out may lead to victimisation, harassment or even attack.

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Disability (physical, mental or learning disabilities)

Many people in the community have a disability, including people with mobility difficulties, people with sensory impairment, people with learning difficulties and people with mental health problems. The needs and wants of those with different disabilities vary considerably. However, they often all share the adverse effects of prejudice and stereotyping which can lead to inaccurate assumptions about their abilities. For many, this is aggravated by a physical environment designed by and for ‘able bodied’ people, a lack of access to information and by a neglect of their particular rights and needs in the way services and work are organised.

Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides a statutory duty on service providers to consider reasonable adjustments to physical barriers.

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Race, colour, ethnic or national origin

Prejudice and stereotypes about people from different ethnic or racial backgrounds can lead to both direct and indirect discrimination. It can range from less favourable treatment in the recruitment process to racist remarks and in its most extreme forms to racial harassment and attack.

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Age

Discrimination against people because they are ‘old’ or ‘young’ can manifest itself through inaccurate assumptions about the abilities and characteristics of younger or older people.

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Religion or belief (any religion, religious belief or philosophical belief)

In this context, ‘belief’ should be taken to refer to a religious or similar belief, not political belief.

Despite its increasingly multicultural population, the UK is still geared towards the traditional Christian festivals. Managers and employees need to be aware of different religious festivals throughout the year.

Flexible working will also become more important so that individuals can observe different religious days.

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Other forms of discrimination

People can experience discrimination because of their political beliefs, their marital status, their caring responsibilities or past unrelated convictions. People can also be discriminated against on grounds of their perceived social or economic status or because they are homeless or have a history of dependency on alcohol or drugs.

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Outcomes

This policy is used to clearly inform new and existing staff of their responsibilities and rights. It is used to communicate our principles and arrangements to our partners or contractors and others who may be affected by our actions.

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Who is responsible for delivery?

The Council has a legal duty to provide all services and employment opportunities fairly and without discrimination. This legal duty arises from an expanding legal framework.

There is a clear allocation of responsibility for the implementation of this policy as follows:

Council
The Council has responsibility for agreeing this policy and associated strategy.

Executive Board
The Executive Board has overall responsibility for the Council’s Equality and Diversity Policy and will consider and refer to Council all major policy issues arising in its implementation. The Executive will monitor progress in implementing the policy and achieving the equality vision. Equality and Diversity is included in the remit of the portfolio holder for Resources.

Councillors
Members of the Council are responsible for ensuring that the policy is implemented and for its review at regular intervals. This will be carried out in co-operation with the Council’s Management Team.

Chief Executive
The Chief Executive is responsible for ensuring that the policy is implemented and for its review at regular intervals. This will be carried out in co-operation with the Council’s Management Team.

Corporate Directors
Corporate Directors are responsible to the Chief Executive for ensuring that the policy is implemented within their remit.

Heads of Service
Heads of Service are responsible for ensuring that the policy is acted upon within their service centre and is properly reflected in Service Plans, service training and development plans and in the objectives and development of individual employees.

These plans will support the Equality and Diversity Action Plan for the Council as a whole.

Employees
All employees are responsible for implementing this policy and are expected to participate in the preparation and carrying out of practical measures to improve the Council’s performance within their service. Employees are also responsible for their behaviour towards colleagues and customers of the Council’s services, and are expected to meet appropriate standards. The Council will support all employees by making sure they know what the policy is, involving them in service planning, providing supportive management, arranging training and other activities to improve understanding and knowledge, and by making sure they understand their responsibilities under the law.

Contractors, partners and grant recipients
Some of the Council’s services are provided by external contractors, partnership arrangements, service level agreements and through grant aid on the basis of a specification by the Council. Contractors, partners or other service providers who work with or on behalf of the Council are responsible for implementing the Equality and Diversity Policy. This applies to subcontracts also. The Council will monitor the performance of these third parties and take all necessary steps to ensure good performance.

Resources
The Council recognises that implementation of the policy requires resources. In assessing priority the Council will take account of the extent to which bids arise directly from needs that the community regards as important and their likely effectiveness in meeting those needs. This will be done in the light of other priorities and of the Council’s overall financial resources.

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Reviewed
May 2004

Policy Approval
This policy has been approved by the Strategic Management Team, the Executive Committee, the Equality Steering Group and the Staff Joint Forum.

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Page last updated on 2 September 2014