To Consider a report from the Head of Democratic Services on the Council’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. This follows an item in December 2022 and provides a further update to the Board on the Council’s organisational values and behaviours which are aimed at helping everyone to be their best in the workplace and the commitment to treat people fairly.
Further to minute 66 of the meeting held 12 December 2022 the report of the Head of Democratic Services provided a follow up on the journey being undertaken corporately by the Council to improve the approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
In attendance for this item were:
· Cllr Debra Coupar (Executive Member)
· Mariana Pexton (Director, Resources)
· Andy Dodman (Chief Officer, Human Resources)
· John Ebo (Head of HR Projects – EDI)
Members of the Scrutiny Board (Strategy & Resources) noted the progress and ongoing work on equality, diversity and inclusion and the focus on embedding EDI within the council’s values and behaviours.
John Ebo delivered an introductory presentation highlighting issues including:
- Progress to embed EDI priorities across the organisation
- Mandatory in-person EDI training for 2,200 managers.
- The need for a ‘high challenge and high support’ approach to tackle unacceptable behaviour.
- Progress with a Grievance Practice Review.
- The use of EDI data to evidence diversity of employees within different services.
The Scrutiny Board sought further information about the recently appointed Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, including her caseload, capacity, accessibility and ways in which the impact of the role can be measured.
It was confirmed that the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian has committed to attend a scrutiny session during 2023/24.
Members were reassured that the Corporate Leadership Team has agreed that network leads should have protected time to support their group, and that all other members of staff should be reasonably supported to attend staff network sessions. This message is being communicated through the current manager EDI training.
The Scrutiny Board agreed to invite representatives of the staff networks to attend further scrutiny sessions in 2023/24.
Officers were asked to consider whether it would be beneficial to introduce an EDI veterans group given concerns about matters such as access to services.
It was confirmed that EDI training for elected members is being developed and will be part of this year’s new member induction programme. The Board agreed to consider whether it would be beneficial for refresher training to be provided to members of the 2023/24 successor board.
The Scrutiny Board sought clarification about how improvements in the grievance process can be measured and were informed that the time taken to resolve such matters is a key metric. Effective triage of grievances is enabling a swifter resolution in cases where the use of tools such as informal mediation may be appropriate.
Further information about the Terms of Reference for the EDI Task group was requested.
Mandatory training for managers was welcomed and members were advised that this is in addition to the suite of EDI resources that have been made available to all staff in recent years. It was noted that understanding intersectionality should be an important part of the EDI manager training.
Whilst noting the plans for managers to develop action plans with teams that will set out clear actions on this agenda, the Board sought assurances around effectiveness, monitoring and accountability of progress to ensure that managers do cascade information to their staff. It was noted that this is an area for further development in terms of how this can be monitored and reported.
Cllr Burke expressed an interest in attending one the of the EDI training sessions and was invited to also spend time with Cllr Coupar’s team to see how the EDI priorities are being embedded in practice.
The Scrutiny Board sought clarification about the work being undertaken to support the career progression of underrepresented groups. Members requested an update on any framework that is developed in this regard.
Members explored the use of the terms ‘equity’ and ‘equality,’ and were reassured that understanding equity is an important part of EDI training.
Concern was raised about how the Council’s EDI priorities can be embedded in the culture of partner organisations contracted to deliver work and services for the Council. In response officers highlighted that procurement contracts can be used as a mechanism to help achieve this ambition.
Officers outlined work that has taken place in partnership with the NHS to promote neighbourhood recruitment. This has been targeted at priority neighbourhoods and has had some success. There is an ambition to increase the scope of this work to include anchor institutions.
Members also requested further information on the Grievance Policy Review to ensure monitoring of the changes that have taken place. It was agreed that Board members will be provided with a copy of the recent Grievance Policy Review report.
a) To note the progress and ongoing work on equality, diversity and inclusion and the focus on embedding EDI priorities within the council’s values and behaviours.
b) The Board requested the following additional actions:
a. A copy of the Terms of Reference for the EDI Tasking Group
b. The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian to attend a scrutiny session in 2023/24.
c. Representatives from the staff networks to be invited to further sessions of the Scrutiny Board in 2023/24.
d. Cllr Burke to spend time with Cllr Coupar’s team to understand how EDI priorities are being embedded in practice.
e. Consideration to be given to Cllr Burke attending an EDI manager training session.
f. Consideration of how monitoring of manager to staff cascading of information can be monitored.
g. Grievance Policy Review report to be shared with Board members