[14.05-14.50] Workforce Equality Strategy Implementation Update
- Meeting of Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 8th November, 2022 2.00 pm (Item 48.)
Report of the Director of Human Resources, Organisation Development and Transformation.
This report provides members with an update on progress to date to increase diversity, ensure we are an inclusive employer and to challenge discrimination.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Human Resources, Organisation Development and Transformation which provided an update on progress to date to increase diversity, to ensure the Council is an inclusive employer and to challenge discrimination.
Key points and themes in the report included:
· The context and background to the development of the Workforce Equality Strategy;
· How the Council had created a more diverse workforce at all levels by developing existing staff and opening opportunities out to Manchester residents through:
o The Leadership Pathway Programme
o Work experience
o Involvement in career fairs across schools, colleges, universities and within the community;
· Engagement and communications on the Strategy;
· The development and embedding of the Our Manchester fifth behaviour (OM5B), which reinforces the Council’s commitment to being an equal, inclusive, and fair organisation;
· Staff attendance at Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)-related training;
· Works to transform the ways in which the Council recruits and selects, including:
o Procuring and implementing a new Applicant Tracking System, which will be more intuitive and easier for managers and applicants to use and will provide the data needed to plan improvements;
o Improvements to recruitment processes;
o Requesting that all selection panels are diverse in terms of gender and race; and
o Creating a new website and developing a more compelling and appealing brand for the City Council as an employer.
· Progress and feedback from staff networks, equality champions and allies;
· Setting and monitoring targets across a range of measures;
· Workplace adjustments and trans inclusion; and
· New and existing policies and the Policy Forward Plan for the next 12 months.
A number of guests from the Council’s Leadership Pathways Programme, Diverse Panels, Women’s Equality Network, Pregnancy & Parenting Group, Neurodiverse Employees Group and the Race Equality Network Assurance Working Party attended the meeting and shared their experiences and achievements.
Key points and queries which arose from the Committee’s discussion included:
· Expressing thanks to the guests who attended to share their experiences;
· Acknowledging potential implications from the Retained EU Law Bill, where EU derived law will expire on 31/12/2023 unless the government retains it;
· Whether some of the rights and protections identified in staff contracts would be revoked upon the expiry of the Retained EU Law Bill;
· Concern over some testimonials, particularly from female employees who felt they needed to take annual leave rather than sick leave for women’s health reasons;
· Inconsistencies in managers’ approaches to and understanding of equalities and how this could be resolved;
· Requesting that a future update report includes reference to the work and progress made by senior and middle managers to implement the Strategy;
· Noting the progress made on diverse interview panels, and querying what could be done to increase the number of these;
· Whether staff still self-define their equalities information;
· Recognising an increase in the number of disabled employees, and querying whether this was due to the Council proactively hiring more disabled people or current employees receiving a disability diagnosis during their employment;
· The need to raise understanding and awareness of a father’s role and caring responsibility, particularly in male-dominated teams;
· Commending the Menopause Policy, but acknowledging a need to continue raising awareness and to address period-shaming;
· Whether the Council specifically recruits care-leavers;
· Requesting that a future update report examines progress to date against the schedule of actions from 2021/22; and
· The need to have a series of measures to track progress.
The Chair opened discussion on the item by thanking guests for their attendance and presentations.
The Director of Human Resources, Organisation Development and Transformation (HRODT) explained that nearly all of the Council’s policies are embedded into employment contracts. The Council would be unable to vary these without employee consent and trade union agreement.
It was explained that employment contracts were based on English employment law and a set of terms and conditions, known as the ‘Green Book’, which are negotiated nationally through collective bargaining arrangements with the National Joint Council (NJC).
The Talent and Diversity Lead acknowledged the need for managers to be consistent in their approach to and understanding of equalities but that there also needed to be understanding and confidence. He acknowledged that some work was needed around supporting managers, being clear around unacceptable behaviour and what was expected of managers.
The Director of HRODT emphasised that there was not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to achieving consistency amongst managers. The new Our Manchester fifth behaviour - ‘We show that we value our differences and treat people fairly’ – was important in raising expectations of staff and work was underway on identifying expectations of managers.
In response to a query regarding how the Council could increase the number of diverse interview panels, the Talent and Diversity Lead suggested that more could be done to highlight the purpose and importance of diverse panels and how these help the Council’s decision-making processes.
Early discussions had been held with trade unions regarding the Council’s recruitment and selection policy, which would enshrine the mandate for diverse panels, and this would be considered by Personnel Committee in the future. A new learning and development course would also be launched for managers who recruit, which the Director of HRODT hoped would help to embed understanding of the need for and advantages of diverse panels.
The Director of HRODT commented that many employees had found participating on a diverse recruitment panel hugely beneficial.
Reassurances were provided that the work over the past 12 months had tried to build understanding, buy-in and commitment and that this was essential to continue making progress.
In response to a query regarding whether staff still self-define their equalities information, the Director of HRODT advised that work had been undertaken to change the categories for those self-declaring their race, ethnicity and other equalities information because many of the previous categories were not felt to be correct. It was confirmed that staff could self-declare their equality information online and that this was confidential.
Officers were currently unable to assess whether the increase in the number of disabled employees was due to the Council proactively hiring more disabled people or current employees receiving a disability diagnosis during their employment. It was explained that the new recruitment system would be able to track different groups and how they progress through the recruitment process.
The Talent and Diversity Lead also clarified that the Employee Equality Networks individually define their membership criteria and not the HROD team.
The Director of HRODT acknowledged that a lack of understanding and awareness of a father’s role and caring responsibility was a societal issue and that HROD would address individual examples on a case-by-case basis.
Members were also informed that the Council has an interview guarantee scheme for care-leavers, disabled people, and those leaving the armed forces. Statistics on the number of guaranteed interviews which have been held would be provided outside the meeting.
The Director of HRODT highlighted that progress was being made against the 2021/22 schedule and the team assessed this monthly. There was a range of measures in the Strategy, the majority of which are tracked, and a future update report could examine progress to date against the schedule of actions from 2021/22.
The Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer commented that it was important for the Council to encourage staff to be able and feel comfortable to express their views in order to make the necessary changes and progress.
The Executive Member for Finance and Resources thanked officers for the report and their work and expressed his gratitude to the guest speakers for their attendance and their honest, powerful and brave testimonies. He stated his belief that a talented and diverse workforce was essential for the Council to reflect the city’s population and to prove better services for residents.
He welcomed the challenge from the Committee and highlighted the Council’s journey since the Independent Race Review in 2019. It was important not to lose sight of this work as the country faced another period of austerity.
1. the report and progress to date be noted and
2. the Committee requests the next update on the implementation of the Workforce Equalities Strategy examines the work of middle and senior management in achieving the priorities outlined in the Strategy.
- Workforce Equalities Strategy Implementation Update, item 48. PDF 176 KB
- Update on Workforce Equality Presentation, item 48. PDF 6 MB