Devon County Council is committed to eliminating discrimination, providing equality of opportunity and challenging prejudice in order to advance the achievement of equality and foster good relations between diverse groups in Devon.
Equality brings quality for everyone and the creation of a fairer society where everyone can participate and achieve their potential.
Equality is about valuing a person ‘as an equal’ and treating people according to their needs and characteristics to achieve an equal or fair outcome – it’s not necessarily about treating everyone the same.
An equal society values human diversity, recognising that diversity brings a range of skills, knowledge, values, styles, perspectives and ideas that secure Devon’s future as a place where people want to live, work and prosper, and challenges the inequalities that destroy this diversity in our society and organisations.
Everyone who works for Devon County Council (as an employee, contractor or volunteer) is expected to adhere to this policy.
Councillors (Members of the County Council) are bound by their Code of Conduct.
Our recruitment and selection processes will aim to ensure that people who join the County Council have shared values. Together, through leadership, management supervision, personal responsibility, guidance and training we will all aim to ensure our organisational culture demonstrates our commitment to equality.
Sometimes this involves thinking differently about what we do and how we do it. If we don’t change our thinking, we will keep doing the same things and get the same results. It’s OK to be curious and try new things. Sometimes this involves being able to challenge people constructively.
It’s important that everyone working for Devon County Council understands about equality and diversity and how to operate in a non-discriminatory and inclusive way, doing what matters to people. Under the Equality Act 2010, employees and others working on behalf of an employer can be held personally liable for acts of unlawful discrimination where an employer has taken all reasonable steps to prevent such an act.
Failure to provide inclusive, non-discriminatory services and employment can result in poor community outcomes, service user experience and working environment, which can increase organisational costs due to poor health/wellbeing and high staff turnover. Failure to comply with this policy could result in disciplinary action.
Why do we have an equality policy?
We have an equality policy to make sure that we treat people fairly, reduce inequalities in Devon, and comply with the law (Equality Act 2010 and other relevant legislation covering equality and human rights).
Prejudice and discrimination can affect anyone, but some groups are affected more than others. Some people receive unfair treatment or worse outcomes as a result of negative stereotyping, assumptions, ignorance, invisibility, abuse of power or intolerance. This could be because of their religious beliefs, culture, heritage, appearance, abilities, age, gender, or sexual orientation – diverse identities that are intrinsic to them. This means that people are not provided with the same opportunities as others, or are not treated with dignity and respect because of who they are.
Discrimination is often unwitting – this is when someone does not realise they are discriminating unlawfully. This is when people develop policy and practice based upon their own needs, identities and values and do not consider the different needs of other people. The law, however, does not recognise ignorance as a defence.
Devon County Council acknowledges and welcomes its legal duties and uses the legislation and national guidance as a framework to improve or maintain standards and be accountable to the people it serves. However, we are not only driven by legislation – our policy and the work we do is also in response to local needs.
Supporting guidance and information
To support this policy, we provide a range of guidance and information on our public and staff webpages including:
- Impact Assessment – to analyse the effects our policies and services have on people and make sure our decisions are fair, informed and lawful (in terms of both Equality and Human Rights).
- Recruitment and employment policies and guidance.
- Learning and development opportunities including mandatory Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Essentials e-learning.
- Acceptable Behaviour Policy for staff, Unacceptable Customer Behaviour Policy and Code of Conduct for Members.
- Procedures for reporting incidents of discrimination, harassment and Hate Crime (issues can also be reported anonymously or by witnesses).
- Communication standards including guidance for translations, interpreting and alternative formats as well as guidance on inclusive and acceptable language.
- Procurement/commissioning – equality standards and clauses in contracts for organisations providing services on our behalf.
- Information about diversity characteristics and needs, community feedback and employment/community/customer data (including incidents of discrimination/harassment).
- Information about the Equality Act 2010, definitions of discrimination and the nine protected characteristics covered by the Act.
- Equality objectives (priorities for the County Council in reducing inequalities and fostering good community relations).
- Engaging Devon – strategy and guidance on involving people in the design, delivery, monitoring and prioritisation of services so that their needs can be met in the best way.
- Regular newsletters and information about activities promoting equality and diversity.
- People and groups involved in co-ordinating and leading on equality initiatives, influencing and scrutinising services, employment practices and policies.
Our Five Principles for Equality
Principle 1: Ensure Acceptable Behaviour
Treat everyone with dignity and respect. This includes:
- Treating people fairly and according to their needs – doing what matters to them and not making assumptions.
- Being compassionate and being patient and helpful if someone has difficulties.
- Being courteous and polite. Respecting property and culture, particularly when visiting people in their own places. Respecting the right to private and family life.
Think about how your actions will affect others. This includes:
- Being aware the effect your own behaviour and body language has on others, and recognising and guarding your own prejudices. We all have a right to hold our own thoughts, beliefs and ideas, but this does not mean we have a right to express these thoughts if they lead to discrimination or cause offence or harass people.
- Not acting in a way that would harass, humiliate, offend, degrade, intimidate, frighten, threaten, undermine or abuse someone. Not promoting or allowing others to act in this way.
- Not using language or images which would be regarded as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or insulting about disability, age, or religion and belief. Do not promote or allow this; try to use inclusive language.
Help people change for the better by telling people, where possible, if their behaviour has been unacceptable and advising on appropriate alternatives so they are given the opportunity to change. Tackle things, however small, at an early stage so they do not get worse.
Refer to our Acceptable Behaviour Policy for further information.
Members of the public do not have the right to refuse service from staff or elected Members because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marital and civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race/ethnicity, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation, or any other factor that is not reasonable (unless there is a genuine and objective need, for example, some women may feel uncomfortable receiving certain services provided by a man).
Principle 2: Respond to Complaints and Incidents in a Positive and Pro-active Way
Everyone has the legal right to complain in good faith about discrimination without being victimised. This means people should be able to raise concerns, or support others in raising concerns, without feeling awkward, threatened or isolated. Discrimination can include harassment, not being able to access a service or information, or being treated less favourably or unfavourably because of a protected characteristic. If someone complains about discrimination:
- Handle complaints sensitively using the appropriate complaints procedure and seeking advice from Customer Relations or HR as appropriate. Listen to concerns with care and an open mind.
- Those receiving the complaint about discrimination should accept the incident is discriminatory as perceived by the victim (for example, racist or sexual harassment). This is unless, and until such time, it is reasonably proved otherwise (following an investigation into the matter).
- Resolve matters as quickly as possible. Where appropriate, matters should be resolved informally and at source, before they escalate.
- Explore the options to resolve issues, if necessary. For example, mediation, advocacy, contacting appropriate personnel or agencies to advise on good practice or the best course of action. Provide or make arrangements for appropriate support for all those involved.
- Where mistakes have happened, the organisation should admit to them and learn from them. Individuals are encouraged to identify gaps in knowledge/skill and seek to address them in a positive and pro-active way.
- Take appropriate and speedy action if an incident of Hate Crime occurs on Council property (such as racist graffiti or assault). This may involve removing graffiti or supporting people affected by the incident including signposting to specialist, independent organisations. The police may need to be contacted, subject to a victim’s wishes.
- Report the incident to the Lead Officer for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, preferably using the incident reporting procedure which is available at www.devon.gov.uk/reportincidents.
Principle 3: Provide Access to Services, Facilities and Information
It is our aim to provide a welcoming, friendly environment which is easily accessible to all, taking steps to improve access to services, facilities and information where needed and being honest about what we can and cannot do.
- Make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. This can include providing a reasonable alternative.
- Make sure information is accessible by following accessible communication standards. This includes using appropriate fonts sizes/types and providing alternative formats where necessary and providing different ways in which people can interact with us. When publishing content on intranet and internet sites, follow web-accessibility standards. Be clear and use plain English as a minimum.
- Make sure meetings, reception areas and events are accessible. Check if delegates have any specific requirements such as diet, access or communication support. Arrange meetings in good time so that necessary communication support can be put in place if needed (see accessible communication standards above).
- Take account of people’s ability to get to venues such as public transport links, disabled parking bays, gradients or steps around the building.
- Consider commitments such as caring responsibilities and religious holidays or Sabbaths, including the implications of fasting, when setting a date or time for an event or meeting, for example.
- Consider how to remove or reduce negative impacts that a proposal, service or policy could have on different people and communities and also explore how to enhance positive impacts. Guidance on impact assessment is available at www.devon.gov.uk/impact.
- Use anonymous diversity monitoring to measure outcomes and make sure you ask the right kind of questions when gathering personal information. Refer to guidance on equality and diversity monitoring.
- Make sure application processes are free from bias by separating details which reveal someone’s personal characteristics that are not needed in order to make a decision.
- Council buildings and facilities must be audited for their compliance with Schedule 2 of the Equality Act and disability access related building regulations, with plans in place for changes to be made to physical features if they do not comply. Schedule 10 applies to school settings. Premises or site managers are responsible for maintaining access audits and plans.
Refer to further guidance on disability access in the Diversity Guide.
Principle 4: Recruit and Employ People Fairly
Employees, agency/contract workers, volunteers, people applying for a job or trainees at Devon County Council must not be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic. They must also be provided with a work environment where they are free from harassment or other barriers to performing their role.
Reasonable adjustments must be provided for disabled job applicants and existing staff who acquire disabilities (including longer term health conditions that meet the definition of disability). Access to Work funding may be available but Managers should put in place low cost adjustments for staff immediately, using their service budget.
People must be provided equality of opportunity in all aspects of recruitment, selection, appraisal, training, promotion/transfer, work allocation, supervision, reward, recognition, retirement, redundancy, career development and any other conditions of employment or work environment. Practical steps to achieve this can include:
- Advertising jobs openly so that all people can apply. Ensuring that job descriptions, person specifications and selection tests/interviews:
– are directly relevant and necessary for the job and not excessive
– are free from cultural, age, gender or other bias
– allow for reasonable adjustments for disabled people such as reallocating duties, and
– do not directly or indirectly discriminate on grounds of a protected characteristic.
- Genuine Occupational Qualifications/Requirements may apply to some jobs. For example, where a female customer seeks a female worker to carry out intimate care: state the relevant legal clause in advertisements where this applies.
- Giving fair consideration to requests to work flexibly such as part time and whether a people can apply for jobs as a job-share.
- Taking lawful positive action to achieve a workforce that reflects our wider community at all levels. Where beneficial, specialist media/events may be used to target under-represented communities or training/development/work-placement opportunities targeted at certain people. The County Council is a Disability Confident employer.
- Other than in the following circumstances, questions about disability or health must not be asked prior to a job offer: diversity monitoring (provided this is clearly anonymous and properly separated), checking ability to carry out the functions of the role or selection tests, checking if any reasonable adjustments are needed, occupational requirements and for positive action purposes.
Diversity monitoring must be carried out by the Council so that it can identify if there is over- or under- representation of men/women, racial groups, disabled people and other relevant characteristics, and use the information to take action to address any imbalance under the workforce strategy. The Council is also required by law to publish information about its Gender Pay Gap.
The Council will also support employee networks (such as a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender+ network) where there is a clear need and benefit to both the Council and those staff who wish to participate. Separate terms of reference will exist.
- Advertising jobs openly so that all people can apply. Ensuring that job descriptions, person specifications and selection tests/interviews:
Principle 5: Meet Specific Needs
The Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010 makes a clear requirement that we must give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality and foster good relations across eight protected characteristics of:
• gender reassignment
• pregnancy and maternity
• race (ethnicity, skin colour, nationality and national origin)
• religion and belief
• sexual orientation.
It is also unlawful to discriminate on grounds of marriage and civil partnership in employment.
We should consider how diverse groups of people are affected by our policies and practices in all that we do, all of the time.
Further guidance on diverse groups/protected characteristics and meeting needs are available in the Diversity Guide.