Agenda item

Agenda item

Workplace Equalities and Action Plan

Cabinet, at its meeting on 09 December, will consider a report on the Workplace Equalities and Action Plan. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Customer Focussed Services and  Helen Bishop, Head of  Business Improvement  have been invited to attend for this item.



Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Customer Focussed Services, introduced the report. The report fulfilled a statutory requirement and the data within it were up until March 2020. The data only related to Council activity and did not include those for Oxford Direct Services (ODS). It was important as an employer that the Council should set a good example of practice in the matters covered by the report. It was important to note that the Council was now developing an improved Equality, Diversion & Inclusion Strategy, which extended well beyond just workplace equality matters.  As a result of the pandemic, communication with the many and varied communities within the  City had been improved and this was, in turn informing the development of that strategy. The three year workforce plan of 2018-21  had two main areas of focus, to increase the level of BAME representation in the workforce overall and to ensure that there were more women in positions of senior management.

Alongside the requirement to publish details about the gender pay gap, the Council had decided to publish details of the ethnicity pay gap, on a voluntary basis. In 2021 the Council would also publish details of the disability pay gap, also on a voluntary basis.

In relation to BAME representation, the growth of the previous year had been consolidated at about 13% at March 2020. A significant issue in relation to BAME employees was retention, with more or less equal numbers of arrivals and departures. Enquiries of the 15 most recent leavers indicated that two thirds of them had left for reasons of promotion or geography, all of which demonstrated the importance of nurturing and developing BAME employees. The number of BAME applicants was increasing year on year and it seemed likely that the Council’s activity with communities during the pandemic would increase that number still further. About 7% (c. 60 -70 employees) of staff choose not to declare their ethnicity when asked and a good number of those may be from BAME communities.

In relation to women in senior positions within the organisation the position remained more or less static with no obvious likelihood of reaching the 50% level in the foreseeable future.

The gender pay gap data is necessarily driven by the predominance of women in lower grades. The gap is unlikely to be narrowed until there are more women in more senior positions. On more positive note however, the pay gap is about 5% better than the national equivalent.

The ethnicity pay gap is, once again, driven by the distribution of employees across different roles in the Council and unlikely to be narrowed unless there is an increase in the number of BAME employees in senior positions.

More work would be done on the interrelationship of the different data sets in the following year.

The Committee noted the importance of taking account of those with a disability caused by emotional and mental illness. It was therefore important that employees were made to feel comfortable about declaring what might be a sensitive  matter and that appropriate  support was available to them if necessary.

Exit interviews were central to the understanding of why people leave the organisation and for them to be effective, employees must have confidence in them. The proportion of leavers taking part in exit interviews was increasing and the role of HR as an “honest broker” was central to the process.

Many people don’t relate to the term  BAME  and a detailed breakdown of which groups employees self-identify is available in the data held  but not published. These data could be shared with the Committee if it was felt to be helpful.

 It was suggested that it would be helpful if examples could be given of the improved knowledge and insights into local community groups referred to in the report. The importance of consultation and engagement with the community should not be underestimated and there would be great merit in exploring new ways of engaging the community. Co-production was cited as a particularly important mechanism for doing so.

In relation to the development of the  Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy referred to in the report, Nadeem Murtuja, Executive Director, Communities,  reminded the Committee that the improved engagement with  local community groups in recent months had helped to develop focus groups that involved more than  140 people to participate and identify diversity and EDI issues impacting on their lives in the City. Knowledge had been gained about issues to do with, among other things, race, age, gender, mental health, and disability and, importantly, the intersections of these issues too.  The report made clear that a 12 week consultation and engagement process would then follow with the wider public  to sense check  the proposed issues and proposed actions. This would enable the Council to understand  properly the issues in the context of diversity and the needs of the people that live in the City. He also noted that it was important to co-produce the actions with the local community, once that stage had been reached, so that lived experience was properly reflected.

It was agreed that it would be helpful to refer to the Stonewall guidance on how best to record individuals’ declarations about their sexuality and gender.

Reasonable efforts  would continue to be made to encourage employees to feel safe about making declarations about those matters asked of them. This required a high level of mutual trust, and an understanding of the reasons why people might not wish to declare.  At the same time it was recognised that declarations could not be insisted on if an employee chose not to participate.

It was agreed that it would be helpful to refer to the Stonewall guidance on how best to record individuals’ declarations about their sexuality and gender.

A number of specific, additional, workstreams were suggested. 

·         To understand why some employees are reluctant to share their personal information.

·         The majority of the Council’s Officers live outside the City; it would be helpful if it was made clear that posts in the City Council are for people who live in the City too.

·         Clarity about the  recruitment practices for women from minoritised backgrounds.

·         Clarity about the risks posed by Covid to these and other workforce related activities and targets

·         Guidance to HR re the matter of race and retention

The Committee noted that some of the baseline data relied upon (eg  the number of   BAME residents in the City) were based on the 2011 census  and therefore  likely to  out of date. Census  data in 2021 would however remedy that. It was noted that  detailed data about pay/positions in relation to ethnicity were given in the report.

It was suggested that  much could be learnt from the experience of other towns and cities with rich and diverse communities.

The data provided in this report about Council employees could not, also, be provided, in the same way, to this Committee about Oxford Direct Services (ODS) employees. However both the Companies Scrutiny Panel and the Joint Venture Shareholder could ask for information about the ODS employee profile if they wished to do so.

It was recognised that Covid had slowed progress with some of the planned work in this area. The Committee were very  appreciative of the progress being made to date while sharing the wider  frustration at the delay in some areas.  It was suggested that  much could be learnt from the experience of other towns and cities with rich and diverse communities.

The Committee agreed that the following recommendations should be made to Cabinet.

1.    That the Council fosters an environment in which staff members feel confident to participate in exit interviews

2.    That the Council adopts practices for recording sexual identity in line with Stonewall’s guidance

3.    That the Council investigates the barriers to individuals disclosing their sexuality and faith-based identities

4.    That the Council increases the promotion of itself as an employer to those within the City

5.    That the Council develops communications and recruitment approaches to target women from minoritised backgrounds

6.    That the Council seeks a similar equalities and pay gap report be made from Oxford Direct Services to the Shareholder and Joint Venture Group




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