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We still have a long way to go to achieve equality for all

Published date
The 2018 TUC Equality Audit shows that unions are making progress in the fight for equality - but there's still more work to do

Tackling all forms of discrimination and fighting for equality is at the heart of the trade union movement.

Over the years, unions have been leading the way in fighting for equal pay, protection from discrimination, sick pay, paid holiday leave and much more.

And we don’t just fight for equality in the workplace and society, but also to ensure that our own internal structures reflect the diversity of the workforce.

That’s why every two years we publish the TUC Equality Audit to show our commitment to achieve equality for all.

What is the TUC Equality Audit?

The biennial TUC Equality Audits emerged from an important TUC rule change in 2003 that committed the TUC and our affiliated trade unions to promoting equality in all aspects of our work.

The TUC Equality Audit is an important part of delivering on this commitment and monitoring progress.

The focus of the audits alternates between how unions are embedding equality within all union negotiations with employers, and how unions themselves are improving representation and participation. [1]

The 2018 TUC Equality Audit considers the steps that unions are taking to promote equality in their membership, structures and processes to ensure they reflect the diversity of their membership.

It also looks at the extent to which unions as employers provide equal opportunities for their own staff.

Good news

The good news in the report is the positive actions that unions have delivered to win equality.

The findings show how unions are combatting all forms of harassment, discrimination and prejudice within union structures and as employers.

Unions have reported that nearly all members are now protected by robust rules or procedures on harassment and discrimination.

Disabled members are also well represented in union positions, and a higher proportion of unions are now offering trade union training specifically aimed at BME, LGBT, disabled and young workers than four years ago.


Despite these successes, the findings show there are still many challenges unions face.

These include the under-representation of BME workers among union members and the fact that young workers are much less likely to be in a union or in union positions.

And whilst most unions collect data on the number of women members, fewer monitor the number of members in other equalities groups. This is true for large unions as much as small ones.

There has also been a reduction in the number of unions employing equality officers for specific equality strands, with officers now more likely to have other responsibilities.

More work to do

Unions need to do more to monitor membership among BME, disabled, LGBT and young workers.

And more needs to be done to encourage women, BME and young workers into union positions.

It’s been 15 years since the TUC committed unions to fighting for equality.

Unions have made some great achievements over the years, but there’s still more work to do if we want to achieve equality for all.


[1] The 2018 report analyses is based on questionnaires sent to 50 unions affiliated to the TUC in November 2017, with a completion deadline of the middle of February 2018. Completed questionnaires were received from 38 unions, which is 76 per cent of TUC affiliates. The unions responding in 2018 represent 97 per cent of all TUC-affiliated union members.

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