Equality and diversity policy

Our commitment

1.1 The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) is committed to:

  • conducting its business in a way which is fair and appropriate to all sections of the community.  This may mean taking positive steps to ensure equal opportunities in employment and equal access to its service.
  • providing equal opportunities in employment and to avoiding unlawful discrimination in employment and against customers.
  • Striving to ensure that the work environment is free from harassment and bullying and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. There is a separate Dignity at Work Policy which deals with these issues
  • providing employees with appropriate and relevant advice and support in equality and diversity.

1. 2 The LGSCO will demonstrate its commitment by promoting, maintaining and rigorously implementing this Policy and associated Code of Practice, which will underpin all decisions and actions taken by the Commission and its employees.

Employment

1.3 The LGSCO seeks to ensure that no discrimination occurs in recruitment or employment because of age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity, race (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origin), sexual orientation, religion or belief, or because someone is married or in a civil partnership.

1.4 The LGSCO will provide equality of opportunity in all aspects of employment including recruitment, promotion, opportunities for training, pay and benefits.

Service delivery

1.5 The LGSCO recognises that as a service-provider it is important to ensure that people can find  and use the service when they need to. Background and ability should not act as a barrier to access.

1.6 The LGSCO recognises the need to take measures to make sure that disadvantaged groups and individuals are aware of and can use the service. It aims to promote equal access to the service for all users and potential users.

1.7 When it makes decisions about how to deliver the service, it will consider any implications for Equality and Diversity.

The law

1.8 It is unlawful to discriminate directly or indirectly in recruitment or employment because of age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity, race (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), sexual orientation, religion or belief, or because someone is married or in a civil partnership. These are known as "protected characteristics".

1.9 Discrimination after employment may also be unlawful, eg refusing to give a reference for a reason related to one of the protected characteristics.

1.10 Staff should not discriminate against or harass a member of the public in the provision of services or goods. It is unlawful to fail to make reasonable adjustments to overcome barriers to using services caused by disability. The duty to make reasonable adjustments includes the removal, adaptation or alteration of physical features, if the physical features make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of services. In addition, service providers have an obligation to think ahead and address any barriers that may impede disabled people from accessing a service.

Types of unlawful discrimination

1.11 Direct discrimination is where a person is treated less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic.  In limited circumstances, employers can directly discriminate against an individual for a reason related to any of the protected characteristics where there is an occupational requirement.  The occupational requirement must be crucial to the post and a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

1.12 Indirect discrimination is where a provision, criterion or practice is applied that is discriminatory in relation to individuals who have a relevant protected characteristic (it does not explicitly include pregnancy and maternity, which is covered by indirect sex discrimination) such that it would be to the detriment of people who share that protected characteristic compared with people who do not, and it cannot be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

1.13 Discrimination arising from disability  occurs where an individual has been treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of a disability. There is no need for a comparator, and the reason for the unfavourable treatment is irrelevant. This type of discrimination is unlawful where the employer knows, or could reasonably be expected to know, that the person has a disability.  An employer will have a defence if they can demonstrate that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

1.14 Harassment is where there is unwanted conduct, related to one of the protected characteristics (other than marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity) that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity; or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.  It does not matter whether or not this effect was intended by the person responsible for the conduct.

1.15 Associative discrimination is where an individual is directly discriminated against or harassed for association with another individual who has a protected characteristic (although it does not cover harassment because of marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity).

1.16 Perceptive discrimination is where an individual is directly discriminated against or harassed based on the perception that he/she has a particular protected characteristic (other than marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity).

1.17 Victimisation occurs when an employee is subjected to a detriment because they made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act 2010, or because he or she is suspected of doing so.  However, an employee is not protected from victimisation if he or she acted maliciously or made or supported an untrue complaint.  There is no longer a need for a complainant to compare his or her treatment with someone who has not made or supported a complaint under the Act.

1.18 Failure to make reasonable adjustments is where a physical feature or a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who does not have that protected characteristic and the employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments to enable the disabled person to overcome the disadvantage.

Employee responsibilities

1.19 Every employee is required to assist the organisation to meet its commitment to provide equal opportunities in both employment and service delivery and avoid unlawful discrimination.

1.20 Employees can be held personally liable as well as, or instead of, the organisation for any act of unlawful discrimination.  Employees who commit serious acts of harassment may be guilty of a criminal offence.

1.21 Acts of discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation against employees or customers are disciplinary offences and will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure. Discrimination, harassment, bullying or victimisation may constitute gross misconduct and could lead to dismissal without notice

Implementation

1.22 The Chief Executive Officer is accountable for ensuring this policy is put into effect.

Monitoring and review

1.23 This policy will be monitored periodically by the organisation to judge its effectiveness and will be updated in accordance with changes in legislation.

1.24 In particular, the organisation will monitor the ethnic, age and gender composition of the existing workforce and of applicants for jobs (including promotion), and the number of disabled people within these groups, and will review its equal opportunities policy in accordance with the results shown by the monitoring.  If changes are required, the organisation will implement them.

1.25 Information provided by job applicants and employees for monitoring purposes will be used only for these purposes and will be dealt with in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Code of practice

This Code of Practice defines how the Equality and Diversity Policy will be put into effect in the LGSCO’s everyday activities. It forms part of the conditions of service and all employees must abide by its content.

Employment Practice

Recruitment and selection

2.1 Person and job specifications will be limited to those requirements that are necessary for the effective performance of the job.  Candidates for employment or promotion will be assessed objectively against the requirements for the job, taking account of any reasonable adjustments that may be required for candidates with a disability.  Disability and personal or home commitments will not form the basis of employment decisions except where necessary.

2.2 The arrangements for recruitment and selection are fully described in the organisation's Recruitment Policy.

Appointment

2.3 As part of their induction training all new employees will be made aware of the Equality and Diversity Policy, the application of the policy and their role in carrying out the policy.

Working arrangements

2.4 The organisation will consider any possible indirectly discriminatory effect of its standard working practices, including the number of hours to be worked, the times at which these are to be worked and the place at which work is to be done, when considering requests for variations to these standard working practices and will refuse such requests only if management considers it has good reasons, unrelated to any protected characteristic, for doing so. The organisation will comply with its obligations in relation to statutory requests for flexible working.

Conditions of service

2.5 As part of its commitment to Equality and Diversity, conditions of employment will be regularly monitored.

Disability during employment

2.6 If an employee becomes disabled, the organisation will make reasonable adjustments to its standard working practices to overcome barriers caused by disability. Human Resources together with our Occupational Health provider will provide support and advice relating to disability.

Exit interviews

2.7 Employees are invited to comment on any aspects of the observance of this policy in their exit questionnaire and whenever an exit interview is held.

Witnessing discriminatory behaviour

2.8 No employee should have to suffer discriminatory treatment from other employees.

2.9 Employees who witness acts of discrimination, abuse, or harassment by other employees must report this to management at an appropriate level immediately.  Management will deal with such information as confidentially as possible. Employees who are concerned about possible recriminations should consult the Whistleblowing Policy and the Dignity at Work Policy.

Grievances

2.10 If an employee considers that they may have been unlawfully discriminated against, they may use the grievance procedure to make a complaint. If the complaint involves bullying or harassment, the procedure in the Dignity at Work Policy should be used.

2.11 Management will take any complaint seriously and will seek to resolve any grievance that it upholds. An employee will not be penalised for raising a grievance, even if the grievance is not upheld, unless the complaint is both untrue and made in bad faith.

2.12 Use of the grievance procedure does not affect the staff member’s right to make a complaint to an employment tribunal. Complaints to an employment tribunal must normally be made within three months beginning with the act of discrimination complained of.

Training and Information

2.13 The LGSCO aims to provide:

  • training opportunities which will allow all employees to develop skills appropriate to their job and to further their career development.  While in-service training programmes may be directed at specific individuals or groups of employees, attention must be paid to ensure that training programmes and access to them are non-discriminatory.
  • information and training, as appropriate, on equal opportunities will be given to  managers and others likely to be involved in recruitment or in making decision  where equal opportunities issues are likely to arise.
  • information and training, as appropriate, for all existing and new employees to help them understand their rights and responsibilities under the harassment and bullying policy and what they can do to help create a working environment free of bullying and harassment. The organisation will provide additional information and training, as appropriate, to managers to enable them to deal more effectively with complaints of bullying and harassment.
  • Guidance notes, eg on cultural issues that may affect the setting up and conduct of interviews, are available for staff who deal with the public.

2.14 Participation in training, where considered appropriate by management, will be mandatory for employees.

Accessing the service

2.15  The LGSCO will ensure that its customer information is accessible, as far as is reasonable, to everyone.

2.16  Key documents explaining how to use the service will be available in large print and easy read on its website. We will explain, on the website and in key documents, how to request documents in other formats and how to get help to use the service.

2.17  The organisation will ensure that users who are not fluent in written or spoken English are still able to complain and can adequately present information relevant to their complaint. In each office employees will have access to translating and interpreting facilities. Employees will know how to access these facilities and where appropriate be trained on how to use them.

2.18  The website will be developed and maintained to address the needs of different audiences.

2.19  The organisation aims to use language and images that are non-discriminatory and promote equality.

2.20 The organisation's offices will, as far as is reasonable, be made accessible to disabled people and people with small children. Employees will make alternative arrangements to see people if an office is not reasonably accessible. Accessibility will be reviewed when changes are made to the offices.

Outreach

2.21 The organisation aims to reach a wide range of agencies which, at a national and local level, work with disadvantaged people. It will inform these agencies about our service and provide them with appropriate publicity material.

2.22 The organisation will seek coverage for its services in a wide range of media, including specialist media for target groups identified in this policy.

2.23 The organisation welcomes suggestions about how we can raise awareness with target groups and will consult as appropriate when considering new publicity material.

Encountering discrimination from people outside the organisation

2.24 The LGSCO recognises that employees will from time to time encounter discrimination against themselves. The organisation will provide support and guidance to its employees about what to do when meeting abuse from people outside the organisation.

2.25 Employees should report any bullying or harassment by customers, suppliers or visitors or others to their manager who will take appropriate action.

Monitoring of the policy

Monitoring employment practice

2.26 This policy will be monitored periodically by the organisation to judge its effectiveness. In particular the organisation will monitor the ethnic, gender and age composition of existing employees and of applicants of jobs (including promotion) and the number of people with disability in these group and will consider and take any appropriate action to address any issues that may be identified as a result of the monitoring process.

2.27 The LGSCO will consider any representations made about the operation of the Equality and Diversity Policy and possible improvement to it.

Monitoring service delivery

2.28 Our customer satisfaction research will also gather data on equality and diversity to enable us to better understand who is accessing our service, the types of complaints that they bring forward and their experiences and outcomes.

2.29 Data from customer satisfaction research will be reported to the Leadership Team and the Commission on a quarterly basis.

 
List of related documents

April 2015 (revised for names July 2017)

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