Equality and Diversity Policy

Statement of Policy

1. Statement of policy

1.1 The Debt Counsellors (TDC) recognises that we live in a society where discrimination still operates to the disadvantage of many groups in society and as such is committed to eliminating discrimination and encouraging diversity amongst our workforce. Our aim is that our workforce will be truly representative of all sections of society and each employee feels respected and able to give of their best.

1.2 TDC believes that all persons should have equal rights to recognition of their human dignity, and to have equal opportunities to be educated, to work, receive services and to participate in society.

1.3 TDC is committed to the promotion of equal opportunities through the way the organisation and provide services to the community. In order to express this commitment, we develop, promote and maintain policies that will be conductive to the principles of fairness and equality in the workplace.

1.4 To that end the purpose of this policy is to provide equality and fairness for all in our employment and that no person should suffer or experience less favourable treatment, discrimination or lack of opportunities on the grounds of gender, gender reassignment, marital status (including civil partnerships), race, ethnic origin, colour, nationality, national origin, disability/health status, sexual orientation, age, religious or philosophical beliefs, HIV status, parental status, responsibility for dependents, political beliefs or trade union membership, class, physical attributes, ex-offender status as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, lack of formal qualifications where such qualifications are not formally required, or any other grounds which cannot be shown to be justifiable within the context of this policy.  TDC oppose all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination.

1.5 In the provision of services and the employment of staff, TDC is committed to promoting equal opportunities for everyone.  All employees, whether part-time, full-time or temporary, will be treated fairly and with respect. Throughout its activities, TDC will treat all people equally whether they are seeking or using our services, applying for a job or already employed by us, are trainee workers or students on work experience or placements, or are volunteer workers.

1.6 Selection for employment, promotion, training or any other benefit will be on the basis of aptitude and ability. All employees will be helped and encouraged to develop their full potential and the talents and resources of the workforce will be fully utilised to maximise the efficiency of the organisation.

1.7 This policy will influence and affect every aspect of activities carried out at TDC i.e. promotional work, educational services, casework and other functions linked to TDC, as determined by the Board of Trustees.

2. Our Commitment

2.1 To create an environment in which individual differences and the contributions of all our staff are recognised and valued.

2.2 Every employee is entitled to a working environment that promotes dignity and respect to all. No form of intimidation, bullying or harassment will be tolerated.

2.3 Training, development and progression opportunities are available to all staff.

2.4 Equality in the workplace is good management practice and makes sound business sense.

2.5 We will review all our employment practices and procedures to ensure fairness.

2.6 Breaches of our equality policy will be regarded as misconduct and could lead to disciplinary proceedings.

2.7 This policy is fully supported by the Trustee Board and Chief Executive Officer and employees.

2.8 The policy will be monitored and reviewed annually

3. The Definition of Equality and Diversity

3.1 Equality can be described as breaking down barriers, eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity and access for all groups both in employment, and to goods and services; the basis of which is supported and protected by legislation.

3.2 Diversity can be described as celebrating differences and valuing everyone. Each person is an individual with visible and non-visible differences and by respecting this everyone can feel valued for their contributions which is beneficial not only for the individual but for The Debt Counsellors.

3.3 Equality and Diversity are not inter-changeable but inter-dependent. There can be no equality of opportunity if difference is not valued and harnessed and taken account of.

4. The Definition of Discrimination

4.1 Discrimination may take seven main forms and is defined in law along with the protective characteristics associated with each provision as listed below:

4.2 Direct Discriminationoccurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic. Relevant protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity. For example, a manager does not select a pregnant woman for promotion even though they meet all of the competencies because they are pregnant. This is probably direct discrimination and cannot be justified.

4.3 Associative Discriminationoccurs when someone discriminates against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic. Relevant protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. An example of this is when a manager does not give a job-applicant the role, even though they have met all of the competencies for the role, just because the applicant tells the employer they have a disabled partner. This is probably associative discrimination because of disability by association.

4.4 Discrimination by Perceptionoccurs when someone discriminates against an individual because they think they possess a particular protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic. Relevant protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. An example of this is when a manager selects a person for redundancy because they incorrectly think they have a progressive condition (i.e. that they are a disabled person). This is probably discrimination by perception because they believe the individual is disabled.

4.5 Indirect Discriminationoccurs when a seemingly neutral provision, criterion or practice that applies to everyone places a group who share a characteristic e.g. type of disability at a particular disadvantage. Indirect discrimination may be justified if it can be shown that the provision, criterion or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. An example of this is when an employer decides to apply a “no hats or headgear” rule to staff. If this rule is applied in exactly the same way to every member of staff, then staff who may cover their heads as part of their religion or cultural background (such as Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and Rastafarians) will not be able to meet this requirement of the dress code and may face disciplinary action as a result. Unless the employer can objectively justify using the rule, this will be indirect discrimination. Relevant protected characteristic include age, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. In addition, the Act extends protection against unjustified indirect discrimination to gender reassignment and disability.

4.6 Dual Discriminationoccurs when someone is treated less favourably because of a combination of two relevant protected characteristics. This means that it will be possible for an applicant to claim that they have been treated less favourably not just because of their race but also because of their gender. For example, because the individual is an Asian woman. Relevant protected characteristic include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. (At present this new concept has not been implemented).

4.7 Detriment arising from a disability arises when you treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability. This type of discrimination is unlawful where the employer or other person acting for the employer knows, or could reasonably expected to know, that the person had a disability. This type of discrimination is only lawful if the action can be justified and the employer can show that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. An example of this when an employer imposes a “no beards” rule as a part of a dress code and tells staff they will be disciplined if they do not comply. The employee is a disabled person who has a skin condition which makes shaving very painful. They have been treated unfavourably (threat of disciplinary action) because of something arising from their disability (their inability to shave). Unless the employer can objectively justify the requirement, this may be a detriment arising from a disability. It may also be a failure to make a reasonable adjustment.

4.8 Victimisation occurs when an employer is treated unfavourably, disadvantaged or subjected to a detriment because they have made or supported a complaint of discrimination or raised a grievance under the Equality Act, this policy or the Personal Harassment Policy and Procedures in the Staff Handbook or because they are suspected of doing so. (However, an employee is not protected from victimisation if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint). An example, of this is when an employee requests to work flexibly and their manager refuses their request because they supported a colleague in a complaint of discrimination.

4.9 Third party harassment occurs when an employee is harassed by someone who does not work for the employing organisation such as a customer, visitors, client, contractor or visitors from another organisation. The employer will become legally responsible if they know an employee has been harassed on two or more occasions by someone and it may also be different individuals each time and fails to take reasonable steps to protect the employee from further harassment.

5. Conduct and General Standards of Behaviour

5.1 All staff, Trustees and volunteers are expected to conduct themselves in a professional and considerate manner at all times. TDC will not tolerate behaviour such as:

  • making threats
  • physical violence
  • shouting
  • swearing at others
  • persistent rudeness
  • isolating, ignoring or refusing to work with certain people
  • telling offensive jokes or name calling
  • displaying offensive material such as pornography or sexist / racist cartoons, or the distribution of such material via email / text message or any other format.
  • any other forms of harassment or victimisation
  • displaying offensive material such as pornography or sexist / racist cartoons, or the distribution of such material via email / text message or any other format
  • any other forms of harassment or victimisation

5.2 The items on the above list of unacceptable behaviours are considered to be disciplinary offences within TDC and can lead to disciplinary action being taken as detailed in the Staff Handbook.

5.3 TDC does, however, encourage staff to resolve misunderstandings and problems informally wherever possible, depending on the circumstances. However, whether dealt with informally or formally, it is important for staff who may have caused offence to understand that it is no defence to say that they did not intend to do so, or to blame individuals for being over sensitive.

5.4 It is the impact of the behaviour, rather than the intent, that counts, and that should shape the solution found both to the immediate problem and to preventing further similar problems in the future.

6. Awareness

6.1 TDC is committed to ensuring its staff and managers are fully aware of equality and diversity and aims to ensure that all staff familiarize themselves with this policy. It forms part of TDC’s staff induction package.

7. Communication

7.1 The Equality and Diversity policy is available on TDC external website.

7.2 The details of this policy will be proactively communicated and promoted to all current staff and new starters.

8. Policy Responsibility

8.1 The Chief Executive Officer has specific responsibility for the effective implementation of this policy.  We expect all our employees to abide by the policy and help create the equality environment which is its objective.  In order to implement this policy we shall:

  • Communicate the policy to employees, job applicants, volunteers and relevant others.
  • Incorporate specific and appropriate duties in respect of implementing the equal opportunities policy into job descriptions and work objectives of all staff.
  • Ensure that those who are involved in assessing candidates for recruitment or promotion will be trained in non-discriminatory selection techniques.
  • Incorporate equal opportunity notices into general communications practices.
  • Ensure that adequate resources are made available to fulfil the objectives of the policy.

9. Complaints of Discrimination

9.1 TDC will treat seriously all complaints of unlawful discrimination on any forbidden grounds made by employees, trustees, clients or other third parties and will take action where appropriate.

9.2 If a worker, considers they have been discriminated against they should raise their complaint directly with TDC’s Chief Executive Officer.

9.3 All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the organisation’s grievance, complaints or disciplinary procedure, as appropriate and the complainant will be informed of the outcome in line with these procedures detailed in the Staff Handbook.

9.4 We will also monitor the number and outcomes of complaints of discrimination made by staff, volunteers, clients and other third parties.

10. Monitoring

10.1 We will maintain and review the employment records of all employees in order to monitor the progress of this policy.  Monitoring may involve:

  • The collection and classification of information regarding the race in terms of ethnic/national origin and sex of all applications and current employees;
  • The examination by ethnic/national origin and sex of the distribution of employees and the success rate of the applicants; and
  • Recording recruitment, training and promotional records of all employees, the decisions reached and the reason for those decisions.

10.2 The results of any monitoring procedure will be reviewed at regular intervals to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of this policy. Consideration will be given, if necessary, to adjusting this policy to afford greater equality of opportunities to all applicants and staff.

11. Legal Obligations

Equal Opportunities and Discrimination (Equality Act 2010)

11.1 The new Equality Act came into force in October 2010 and replaces all previous equality legislation in England, Scotland and Wales – namely the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, The Civil Partnership Act 2004, the Employment Equality Regulations 2003 (religions and belief and sexual orientation).

11.2 The Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics are:  age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief sex and sexual orientation.

11.3 In valuing diversity The Debt Counsellors is committed to go beyond the legal minimum regarding equality.

11.4 The Equality Act 2010 harmonises, strengthens and replaces most previous equality legislation. The following legislation is still relevant:

  • The Human Rights Act 1998.
  • The Work and Families Act 2006.
  • Employment Equal Treatment Framework Directive 2000 (as amended).

12. Recruitment & Selection

12.1 TDC is committed to attaining a workforce which is representative of the communities from which it is drawn to secure the widest pool of talent possible.

12.2 The recruitment and selection process is crucially important to any equal opportunities policy. We will endeavour through appropriate training to ensure that employees, making selection and recruitment decisions will not discriminate, whether consciously or unconsciously, in making these decisions.

12.3 Promotion and advancement will be made on merit and all decisions relating to this will be made within the overall framework and principles of this policy.

12.4 Job descriptions, where used, will be revised to ensure that they are in line with our equal opportunities policy. Job requirements will be reflected accurately in any personnel specifications.

12.5 We will adopt a consistent, non-discriminatory approach to the advertising of vacancies.

12.6 All applicants who apply for jobs with us will receive fair treatment and will be considered solely on their ability to do their job.

12.7 Short-listing and interviewing will be carried out by more than one person where possible.

12.8 Interview questions will be related to the requirements of the job and will not be of a discriminatory nature.

12.9 Selection decisions will not be influenced by any perceived prejudices of other staff.

The Debt Counsellors will revise and review this policy regularly.

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