Equality and diversity and the Equality Act, 2010
Monmouthshire County Council recognises that people might suffer discrimination and be disadvantaged for many reasons. It is committed to promoting equality and diversity across all of our services and ensuring that they are accessible to all. The Act puts fairness at the heart of society, harmonises discrimination law, strengthens the law to support progress on Equalities and devolves the responsibility for discrimination to Wales.
The Act consolidates the existing 116 different pieces of equality legislation gives people the right not to be treated less favourably by public authorities. The protected characteristics (strands) to which the General public sector equality duty apply are:
3. Gender reassignment status
4. Pregnancy and maternity
6. Religion and belief
7. Sex (Was Gender)
8. Sexual orientation
9. Marriage and Civil Partnership
The Welsh Language is not part of the Equality Act as it is covered by its own specific piece of legislation. The Welsh Language Measure 2011 but is no less important.
The main points of interest
The following came into force on the 6th April 2011
- a new integrated General public Equality Duty (that extended the public duties to age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, gender reassignment, also including pregnancy and maternity) The responsibility for these were devolved to Welsh Government.
There is the need to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance Equality of opportunity
- Foster good relations
- Covers employment and the provision of goods and services (covers both staff and the public who access services)
- Covers 8 of the 9 protected characteristics – not Marriage and Civil Partnership
Detailed guidance on the Specific Duties to be followed by the Council
Equality Objectives and Strategic Equality Plans
The purpose of the objectives and plans is to enable the delivery of measurable equality outcomes which improve the lives of individuals and communities.
Understanding the diversity of the Monmouthshire population will allow the Council to shape service provision in the best way. The Council must carry out meaningful engagement, gathering relevant information when engaging people, and involve people who represent the interests of those who share one or more of the protected characteristics and have an interest in the way that the Council carries out its functions.
Assessment of impact
An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) is carried out when a policy or practice is proposed or being reviewed, and looks for evidence of adverse impact against people or groups from the nine protected characteristics plus the Welsh Language. The Council must carry out Equality Impact Assessments on policies, procedures, functions, service delivery and financial savings proposals.
Strategic Equality Plans, Equality Objectives and Equality Impact Assessments, as prescribed by the Equality Act 2010, must be based on robust evidence. An important part of that relevant information will come from engagement with people who share protected characteristics. Engagement should take place early enough to influence the setting of priorities.
Employment information, pay differences and staff training
The Council must collect extensive employment information which includes data on recruitment and retention, promotion, training opportunities, and grievance and disciplinary actions on an annual basis. This information must be collected for each of the protected characteristics. Data is also required with regard to male and female employees on job roles, pay and grading, contract type and working pattern. It is important to note that the Council cannot require an employee to disclose information in relation to the protected characteristics and should provide an unknown’ or prefer not to say’ category.
This specific duty applies when Councils’ are procuring works, goods or services from other organisations on the basis of a relevant agreement’. Relevant agreements include the award of a public contract’ or the conclusion of a framework agreement’ which are regulated by Public Sector Directive (Directive 2004/18/EC) / Public Contracts Regulations (2006).
The specific duty requires Council’s to consider whether it would be appropriate to include specific stipulations relating to the general duty, in the award criteria and / or in conditions relating to the performance of a contract of this type.
Reporting and Publishing
The Council must publish an Annual Equality Report in which it will detail how it has identified and collected relevant information, and utilised this information in meeting the three aims of the general duty.
The report will also contain a statement on the effectiveness of the authority’s arrangements for identifying and collecting information and the reasons why any identified information has not been collected.
It will also give an update on how the Council is doing in relation to achieving its Equality objectives and the action plan and will also report on the employment information detailed above.
The Strategic Equality Plan fundamentally builds on the culture as the requirement to set Equality Objectives. As you can see below Monmouthshire County Council identified five equality objectives. These are:
1. Make Equality a key element of our thinking and decision making process.
2. Be an equal opportunity employer, with a workforce and leadership that is aware of, understands and respects the equality agenda
3. Getting to Know the people we serve and employ
4. Protect and support vulnerable people in our communities
5. Encourage people to become more active and involved in helping to shape the Council decisions and service provision
The intention is over the next 4 years to achieve these objectives through the support of a complementary set of actions which can be found in the Strategic Equality Plan
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