Thames Reach
Thursday 24 April 2014
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Equal opportunities and diversity policy

Definitions

The following definitions apply to terms in this policy:

  1. "Organisation" means Thames Reach.

  2. "Staff" means staff member, volunteer, student or any other person working for Thames Reach.

  3. "Service user" means someone who is a past, present or potential user of any of the services offered by Thames Reach.

Policy statement

  1. Thames Reach aims to end street homelessness by providing accommodation, housing and support services and other assistance to street homeless people and by working to prevent homelessness and sustain tenancies. We recognise that being homeless can promote social exclusion and that many of our clients have faced abuse and/or discrimination. We believe that discrimination, which often leads to disadvantage and exclusion, is contrary to Thames Reach's mission and values. We feel that the services we provide will be enhanced by the diversity of staff and service users, and recognise that we need to work as an organisation and as individuals within the organisation to promote and celebrate this diversity, and harness it's potential to improve the services we provide.

  2. Thames Reach is committed to equal opportunities. This means that in the provision of services, the selection of suppliers and contractors, and the employment of staff to provide these services, the organisation aims to ensure that no-one is unfairly discriminated against because of their race, gender, age, disability, sexuality, social standing, history of homelessness, religious beliefs, refugee status, ethnic or national origin, marital status or because of responsibility for dependents.

  3. Thames Reach recognises its responsibility to promote equality of opportunity for staff, service users and others associated with the organisation. We are committed to taking practical steps to address inequality and discrimination by complying with relevant legislation and developing best practice. We recognise that positive action to meet the needs of specific groups facing discrimination can make a practical contribution to addressing discrimination.

  4. This policy document identifies the organisation's overall policy aims in relation to promoting equal opportunities, valuing and celebrating diversity, combating discrimination and ensuring services are as accessible as possible. It sets out a number of specific objectives in relation to management, recruitment and employment, service delivery and accessibility. This policy applies to all of our service users, staff and Board Members.

Legal context

  1. A variety of UK Laws and European Directives provide protection to an increasing number of groups to ensure that they are not discriminated against in relation to employment, provision of services and access to accommodation. Areas where discrimination is legislated against include gender, disability, ethnicity and race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. Part time and temporary worker, as well as ex-offenders are also afforded some degree of protection. Some of the relevant legislation is listed below:

    • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

    • The Equal Pay Act 1970

    • The Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002

    • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

    • The Part Time Employees (Prevention of Less favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002

    • The Race Relations act 1976 9as amended)

    • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975

    • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

    • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

    • Up to date details of this and other legislation affecting rights around equality and discrimination can be found on the ACAS website at: http://www.acas.org.uk/rights/equality.html.

  2. In addition, staff who undertake Trade Union duties and workers who highlight health and safety problems are offered legal protection to ensure that they are not discriminated against because they are asserting their rights in these areas.

  3. Thames Reach will work strenuously to ensure that its work practices fully reflect the requirements of the relevant legislation. Additionally, however, the organisation will ensure that it strives for best practice to ensure that no group or individual is discriminated against whether a legal protection exists or not.

Aims and objectives

  1. Thames Reach is committed to promoting equality, valuing diversity, ensuring accessibility and respecting human rights. The organisation will take pro-active steps to address discrimination and harassment. Thames Reach will ensure that everyone directly associated with our organisation – staff, service users, contractors, visitors – is aware of our commitment in these areas and how this policy affects them.

  2. Thames Reach will identify, and take positive and practical steps to remove, any barriers to the participation of people who are currently under-represented as staff, service users, Board members or contractors.

  3. Thames Reach will seek to develop and maintain a workforce that reflects the wider community within which we operate.

  4. Thames Reach will ensure that there are clear procedures to ensure compliance with relevant legal requirements (eg: recruitment) and that staff, are offered training to put these procedures into practice.

  5. Thames Reach will ensure that the accessibility of its buildings, services and information is routinely reviewed and improved where possible.

  6. Thames Reach will ensure that staff receive appropriate support, training and advice to assist them to deal sensitively with challenging equalities issues.

  7. Thames Reach will develop internal working arrangements and structures that will assist in the promotion of anti-discriminatory practices, and the sharing of effective practice to this end.

  8. Thames Reach will enable staff and Board Members to have equal access to relevant training and opportunities for development and ensure that terms, conditions and employment practices do not discriminate against any group.

  9. Thames Reach will ensure that homeless people who may routinely face difficulties accessing services and getting the help they need (eg: those with complex needs, those whose behaviour is very challenging) are not unnecessarily prevented from being supported by the organisation.

  10. Thames Reach will respond to breaches of this policy by service users firmly but creatively. The organisation recognises that working with a challenging, and sometimes hostile, service user group will mean that staff may face abusive and discriminatory language but we will seek to manage this and support staff while minimising the extent to which this behaviour further excludes service users.

  11. Thames Reach will ensure that managers establish and maintain suitable systems to ensure that we can effectively monitor and evaluate compliance and progress in relation to promoting equality of opportunity.

Practical application

Recruitment

  1. Through good recruitment practices, the setting of targets, and monitoring of the recruitment process and the workforce, Thames Reach will seek to remedy any significant under-representation in its workforce, and to eliminate direct and indirect discrimination. This process is explained in more detail in the organisations Recruitment Manual but the main points are summarised here.

  2. Thames Reach will use a transparent and consistent recruitment process. The aim of our recruitment process is to ensure the appointment of staff via a process consistent with our equal opportunities policies and the underlying values these are built upon. Decisions taken throughout the recruitment process will be recorded in a standard format and this information will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the recruitment process in ensuring equality of opportunity.

  3. Where appropriate, Thames Reach will also utilise Genuine Occupational Qualification to ensure that a direct service is provided, and positive action to encourage diversity, to seek to address any significant under-representation. Many posts within Thames Reach will require particular levels of specialised knowledge and/or previous experience. These requirements will be clearly expressed in the Person Specification for each vacant post. Where possible, Thames Reach will focus primarily upon candidates' aptitudes, attitudes, and potential, rather than pre-defined levels of previous experience. The organisation will often be able to provide substantial development opportunities for candidates with high levels of potential, via on-the-job supervision, coaching, and training. In such circumstances, Person Specifications will be amended to ensure that candidates with strong potential, rather than only those with previous experience, are enabled to apply.

Employment

  1. Managers should ensure that training, promotion and development opportunities are offered on a basis that can be shown to be non-discriminatory.

  2. We appreciate the skills and value that staff with caring responsibilities and dependents bring to the organisation, and we are committed to enabling those staff to work within the organisation. Where this is possible and consistent with the provision of a high quality service, managers should will take a flexible and sympathetic approach to the issues faced by these staff.. Within its contractual arrangement with its staff the organisation provides maternity leave, carer's leave, parental leave and compassionate leave. There is also some limited scope for part-time working. Please refer to the relevant policies for more details.

  3. Thames Reach staff over the age of 65 will not automatically be expected to retire. Instead, they will be asked to take a yearly medical to ensure their continuing fitness for work.

  4. Serious consideration will be given to staff who wish to take Annual Leave on specific days for religious or cultural reasons or who need to make adjustments to their working week for similar reasons. Reasonable adjustment or leave will not be unreasonably refused.

  5. Thames Reach may choose to make a special effort to encourage workers from under-represented groups to take up posts within certain teams/services or at certain levels within the organisation. This may include offering customised training and select development opportunities to staff from these groups. Decisions regarding this will be taken by the SMT after proper consideration of the relevant information and the projected benefits.

  6. Thames Reach takes seriously all allegations of harassment and discrimination and managers should ensure that staff are afforded protection from harassment and offered support regarding any discrimination they may face from service users or others. However, we also recognise that we have a duty of care towards service users, staff and others and as a result it may be necessary to ask workers to continue working with service users who are being discriminatory in their actions or language, as Thames Reach may not wish to enforce further exclusion on an already marginalised and excluded client group. In this circumstance, workers should be offered time and space to discuss their feelings and offered whatever support is necessary to minimise the stress and distress associated with working with clients who display a discriminatory attitude. The principles that we will follow are that:

    • Services will only be fully withdrawn in extreme circumstances for examples where there has been violence or on-going serious abuse and intimidation.

    • Services and elements of services may be withdrawn on a temporary basis (for examples participation in activities).

    • Managers will respect an individual staff member's request not to work with individual service users where there has been serious harassment. It is important that any change of staffing is managed sensitively, and is not interpreted as a reward for the harassment that has taken place.

  7. Thames Reach will collate and monitor statistical information about its workforce to allow consideration of the profile of the workforce in terms of age, gender, ethnic and racial origin, disability and sexuality. This will be undertaken for the purposes of ensuring that marginalised groups are represented and the workforce properly reflects the make up of the wider community within which we operate. This information will be reported regularly to the Central Equality and Diversity Group, the Senior Management Team, the Joint Negotiating Committee, and the Human Resources Sub-committee.

  8. Thames Reach will continue to maintain links with organisations like Positive Action on Training in Housing (PATH) to address under-representation of minority groups whenever this occurs within the organisation.

Promoting choice and accessibility for clients

  1. Managers will ensure that they collect enough information about their service users to properly analyse the make up of the user group in terms of gender, age, racial origin, ethnic origin, sexuality, and special needs.

  2. Managers will ensure that their services are reviewed annually with a view to improving choice for service users, appreciating and valuing the diversity of their user group and ensuring that services provided are flexible enough to be adapted for service users from a range of diverse backgrounds. This review should include the following:

    • Analysis of user group profile

    • Reviewing menus and meal-times – where meals are provided. (eg: are special diets catered for? Is food from a variety of cultures provided?)

    • Reviewing activities offered (eg: are activities designed for predominantly male client group?)

    • Flexibility of available care/support services (eg: can clients choose same-sex care worker or key-worker?)

    • Choice of décor (eg: are different cultures considered?)

    • Consideration of marginalised/minority groups within the user group as a whole (eg: are non-smokers catered for?)

    • Preparedness for, or actual performance in, working with service users with disabilities (eg: how would the team/project work with someone who was hearing impaired?)

    • Preparedness for, or actual performance in, working with service users who do not speak English (eg: easy availability of translation services)

    • Preparedness for, or actual performance in, working with service users whose religion will require alterations to existing services (eg: mealtimes, menus)

  3. Managers will ensure that their service/team undertakes an annual Access Audit. This Audit will review the extent to which Thames Reach's services and premises are accessible to staff and service users from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of needs. In narrow terms, an Access Audit is something all service providers and building owners are required to do under Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to review and improve the accessibility of public buildings for all. Access Audit packs are available from the Centre for Accessible Environments at: www.cae.org.uk/prodserv.html. Within Thames Reach, managers are expected to widen the scope of their Access Audit to include more detailed and non-building related accessibility issues, particularly as these relate to the particular needs of our user group. This should include considering:

    • Whether aids or adaptations could be installed to improve accessibility (eg: for those with poor mobility or those who have difficulty balancing.

    • How easy it is to use the fittings within the premises (eg: door entry systems, door handles, locks, taps, etc.).

    • Whether important information is available in a variety of formats (eg: suitable for those with poor eyesight, English as a second language or literacy problems).

    • Whether service users and others are clearly informed about service availability (eg: when office is open, how/when they can access staff or support services).

    • Whether the layout or décor of the building can be changed to improve accessibility (eg: looking at lighting, looking at how easy it is move to throughout the building, looking at directional signs or colour coding of areas/rooms).

  4. Managers will ensure that any points of action identified following the review of services or Access Audit are incorporated within the team/service work plan and given sufficient priority to ensure that the appropriate action will be taken up.

  5. Managers will report any instances where it has not been possible to meet the service delivery needs of a service user (where this relates to Equal Opportunities and Diversity) in an attachment to the annual Access Audit.

Contractors

  1. When selecting contractors, Thames Reach will be mindful of its commitment to Equal Opportunities. Where possible, it will seek to avoid working with those whose practices are known to be discriminatory and take steps to challenge working practices that are likely to cause upset or discrimination.

  2. Thames Reach encourages managers to make use of the London Equal Opportunities Federation's list of approved contractors where possible. Please see Thames Reach's Approved Contractors Policy for more information.

The Board

  1. Thames Reach recognises that a commitment from the top is needed to develop and build a culture that prevents institutionalised discrimination. The organisation will therefore strive to ensure that women and people from black and minority ethnic groups join its Board, if necessary using targets for recruitment.

  2. The Board will include a broad range of people. Thames Reach has set a target for a Board comprising at least 50 per cent women. Positive steps will be taken to encourage black and ethnic minority members, lesbians and gay men, people with disabilities, and members of other under-represented groups to join. The committee also aims to include people from a range of ages. The composition of the Board will be monitored on a regular basis.

  3. Provision will be made for people with disabilities. Suitable premises will be used for meetings and care will be taken to ensure that (prospective) Board Members are made aware of the layout and facilities available.

  4. The time of meetings will be arranged so that people with dependants are not excluded from attending. Thames Reach will assist with childcare expenses where this is necessary to allow Board members to attend meetings outside normal working hours.

Training and development

Staff

  1. Managers will ensure that staff attend organisational Equality and Diversity Training in the course of their induction. This will include training on cultural awareness, disability awareness and recruitment and selection skills. The development and training needs of all staff, as identified in appraisals, will be monitored centrally, and access to subsequent training and development opportunities will also be monitored.

Service users

  1. Teams should provide opportunities for service users to explore their own views and understanding of discrimination and equal opportunities in a manner that is likely to garner participation and enthusiasm. This may include inviting speakers to address clients, using videos, holding quizzes or discussions and so on.

Board members

  1. Board will receive Equality and Diversity training on cultural awareness, disability awareness, and the role of the board in ensuring the leadership is shown in the promotion of equality and diversity in the organisation. Training needs identified through board appraisals or by other routes, will be identified and met appropriately.

Monitoring, evaluation and compliance

  1. Thames Reach will systematically collect and evaluate information on the characteristics and composition of its service users, staff, Board and job applicants to assist in the assessment of the implementation and effectiveness of this policy. This information will be provided in summary form to the SMT each year.

  2. Thames Reach has established a central Equality and Diversity Group to oversee the implementation of this policy and ensure best practice in the areas of combating discrimination, valuing diversity and promoting equality. This group is chaired by a Departmental Director and reports directly to the SMT.

  3. The central Equality and Diversity Group will produce an annual work plan that clearly sets out the organisation's goals and priorities for the coming year. Each Thames Reach team and service will be given the opportunity to shape this work plan through being represented at departmental Equality and Diversity Groups.

  4. Managers will ensure that each team/service has a member of staff with designated responsibility for Equality and Diversity issues. This member of staff will ensure that information from the central group is disseminated locally, act as a central contact point for Equality and Diversity issues and head up initiatives (eg: Access Audit) occurring locally. A “job description” for this Equality and Diversity specialism is attached at Appendix 1 .

  5. Managers will ensure that all team/service meetings contain a standing agenda item relating to Equality and Diversity. This provides a space where issues affecting service delivery can be raised and discussed.

  6. Thames Reach recognises that guidelines cannot be produced for every eventuality, and that the implementation of this policy depends substantially upon the integrity, discretion and commitment of workers and management.

  7. Breaches of this policy will be treated very seriously and may result in disciplinary action. All staff are urged to familiarise themselves with its contents to avoid inadvertent problems. This policy will be covered during the induction of all new workers. This policy should also be read in conjunction with other Thames Reach policies, including the:

    • Internal communications policy

    • Code of conduct

    • Recruitment policy

    • Individual grievance

    • Harassment and bullying policy

    • Whistle blowing policy

    • Complaints policy

    • These give detailed guidance on the most appropriate method for staff and service users to raise concerns and more specific complaints within Thames Reach.

  8. Thames Reach recognises that achieving equality of opportunity for both staff and service users with diverse needs in a changing environment is a complex and dynamic process. Therefore, the Equality and Diversity Group will regularly review the implementation of this policy in all areas of its operation.

Appendix 1
Equal opportunities and diversity – worker specialism

Thames Reach wishes to ensure that its buildings and services remain accessible to staff from all backgrounds and that people with disabilities are not needlessly excluded from employment. Similarly, we wish to ensure that all of those rough sleepers with the appropriate support needs are able to access and make full use of services provided.

Within Thames Reach, each team/service ensures that a main grade staff member carries an Equal Opportunities and Diversity specialism to help further the organisation's aims and aspirations in this area and reduce discriminatory practice. The duties associated with this specialism are set out below.

It should be made clear that, while these duties are delegated to the EO and Diversity specialist by team managers, managers themselves remain responsible for ensuring that matters relating to EO and Diversity are paid proper attention.

Accessibility

The EO and Diversity specialist will undertake an Access Audit alongside the team manager each year. Any action points stemming from this audit will be added to the team's work plan. The EO and Diversity specialist will ensure that tasks are progressed.

The EO and Diversity specialist will maintain a watching brief for changes in practice or to premises which may lead to certain groups being needlessly excluded. The EO and Diversity specialist will also ensure that Thames Reach premises remain a welcoming place for service users and staff from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of needs.

Anti-discriminatory practice

The EO and Diversity specialist will ensure that each site maintains an EO Book where all incidents of discrimination or good practice regarding EO are recorded. The EO and Diversity specialist will ensure that these entries are reviewed during team meetings and relevant action proposed and taken forward.

The EO and Diversity specialist will contribute to furthering anti-discriminatory practice by undertaking or leading on relevant tasks within their team's work plan (eg: organising training events).

Developing good practice

The EO and Diversity specialist will be required to attend meetings across the service and the organisation to help develop our practice in this area. This may involve contributing to policy development, organising events and sharing good practice more generally. It is expected that the EO and Diversity specialist will report back on these meetings to the team and the team manager.

Valuing diversity

The EO and Diversity specialist will ensure that teams/services are offering activities and promoting an environment that is inclusive of people from different backgrounds and cultures.