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TUC Equality Audit 2018

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Section E - Unions as employers

Staff equality policies, procedures and training

Unions were asked if they had an equal opportunities or non-discrimination policy relating to their own employees.

Overall, 33 unions (87 per cent) responding to the audit had a policy, compared to 30 unions (83 per cent) in 2014. The total included 100 per cent of the large unions, 92 per cent of medium unions and 80 per cent of small unions. Thirty-two unions had a procedure for complaints related to breaches of their equality or non-discrimination policy.

In this section we also introduced a new question asking unions if they had an explicit reference to dealing with harassment and discrimination in their internal complaints, disciplinary or grievance procedures. Thirty- one unions (82 per cent) said they did. This included 100 per cent of the large unions responding to the audit, 92 per cent of the medium ones and 70 per cent of the small unions.

Some unions, particularly the large ones, added that they had a specific policy on bullying and harassment or dignity at work. UNISON has negotiated a new bullying and harassment policy with its staff and their unions.

Unite reported the establishment of twice- yearly separate meetings of Unite women officers and Unite BME officers, coordinated by the national equalities officers for women and BME members respectively, together with the assistant general secretary for equalities. The general secretary also issued a statement along with the union’s updated policy on harassment, dignity and respect, which covers Unite events .

Unite policy on harassment, dignity and respect

The policy, updated in 2015, is introduced by the general secretary as setting out “our commitment to ensuring the diversity of our union is respected, and that all feel welcome and able to participate fully.”

The document states that the policy covers guests of the union, as well as members and employees, and that it applies throughout “free time” and off-event premises, as well as during formal event time.

It defines harassment and sets out the union’s commitment to those who feel they have been harassed, including providing trained officers and staff to assist a complainant with either informal or formal resolution. It also provides a “trained harassment listening support network”.

It sets out what someone should do if they suffer harassment at a union event, explaining the procedures that will
be adopted. It also says that, in some circumstances, the union may notify a member’s employer if they have breached the harassment policy.

In other unions, staff handbooks clearly state that such behaviour is unacceptable, and advocate the use of the grievance and disciplinary procedures. For example, The RMT’s staff handbook states:

Individual allegations of unlawfully discriminatory behaviour by individual employees will be dealt with through the disciplinary procedure where appropriate. Individuals are entitled to use the grievance procedure to raise any individual allegations of discrimination… The Union will also investigate fully any reported harassment of members of staff by lay members or the RMT or visitors to Union buildings.
RMT’s staff handbook

Unions were asked if they provide staff with E&D training. Most (83 per cent) do so, providing training either in-house or through third-party providers. Several make use of TUC training and third-party training.

Most of the unions completing the main questionnaire said they provided paid officials with training in taking discrimination cases – 31 per cent did so regularly and 54 per cent did so where required.

Seventeen unions (45 per cent) have reviewed staff pay and conditions in the last four years to ensure they do not discriminate on grounds of sex. Slightly fewer have checked they do not discriminate on grounds of ethnicity (39 per cent), disability (37 per cent), LGBT+ status (37 per cent) and age (39 per cent). These proportions are lower in each case than in 2014.

The FBU is carrying out a benchmarking exercise to review salaries in respect of sex. The CWU had also just started a review of all main policies, and its staff union (the GMB) had raised some issues which were to be explored.

Photo: female worker
Photo: © Roger Moody

Following the new gender pay gap reporting regulations, unions were asked if they were required to report on their gender pay gap. The regulations apply to organisations with 250 or more employees. Eight of the unions said they were required to do so. These are all the six large unions (Unite, UNISON, GMB, NASUWT, NEU [NUT section], Usdaw) plus two medium unions (Prospect and NEU [ATL section]).

Meanwhile the BDA, which was not required to report, had carried out a gender pay gap analysis anyway, and the NUJ was planning to do so. The audit questionnaires were completed prior to the government’s deadline for gender pay gap reports, but Usdaw said it would be publishing a ‘narrative’ on its data on the union website.

The 2018 audit questionnaire asked unions if they undertook any work to promote and support flexible working for all staff (a slightly different question from that asked in previous audits). Three-quarters (76 per cent) said they provided support for all staff for flexible working. Large unions are the most likely to say they did, 83 per cent compared with 75 per cent of both small and medium unions.

Few changes in this area were reported since 2014, except that several unions had refreshed their policies in the light of legislative changes. In 2014 the TSSA added a homeworking policy, allowing staff with caring responsibilities or disabilities to request homeworking.

Very few unions use positive action in their recruitment to encourage more applications from each of the equality strands. Eight unions said they do so to encourage more BME applicants and the same number for LGBT+ applicants, and seven do so for women and disabled applicants and in relation to the age
of applicants.

The large unions are much more likely than the others to take positive action, 50 per cent doing so for each equality strand except youth, where only 33 per cent do so. But small unions are generally more likely than medium unions to use positive action: 25 per cent of small unions use it to encourage applicants of a desired age group, while none of the medium unions do so. In addition, a higher proportion of small unions than medium ones use positive
action to encourage women, BME and LGBT+ applicants.

Among the large unions, Unite’s recruitment and selection policy states that “where two candidates are as qualified as each other to be recruited or promoted, and one of the candidates has a protected characteristic of being a woman, having a disability, or being from a black or ethnic minority background, the panel shall be entitled to recruit or promote that candidate with the ‘protected characteristic’.” Members of Unite recruitment panels have been trained to ensure positive action is taken.

The TSSA and RCM are both Stonewall diversity champions, and the TSSA participates in the Stonewall index and uses its logo on its recruitment literature. It also advertises vacancies in specific LGBT+ publications and has held information evenings for potential applicants to promote the union’s equality agenda and practices. The RCM also invites for interview all disabled candidates who meet thejob criteria.

Monitoring of staff diversity

As Chart 13 shows, the majority of unions record the number of staff who are women (71 per cent) and who have a BME background (55 per cent), while fewer than half do so for the other equality strands. This represents a fall in the proportion of unions who record the diversity of their staff since 2014, though the numbers monitoring for all characteristics other than gender are still much higher than in 2011. This is especially so in relation to LGBT+ status, which was monitored by just 13 per cent of unions in 2011 but is now monitored by 34 per cent.

Chart 13: Unions monitoring diversity of staff (%)

Chart 13: Unions monitoring diversity of staff (%)
Base: All unions responding to the audits (36 in 2014, 38 in 2018)

The likelihood of unions keeping such statistics on women, BME staff and disabled staff is lower the smaller the size of the union. So, for example, 100 per cent of large unions monitor staff by gender, compared with 75 per cent of medium unions and 60 per cent of small unions.

But this is not the case in relation to LGBT+ and age monitoring, which is most likely to be carried out by the medium-sized unions.