Category: Diversity and Inclusion

Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary

First celebrated in the UK in 1987, this year marks the 30th anniversary of BHM in the UK. Black History Month Wales is also celebrating its 10th year anniversary.

Abi Lasebikan, Co-Chair of our Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network, takes us through the history of BHM…

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Every October throughout the UK, Black History Month (BHM) celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black people to: the development of British society; technology; the economy; the arts and culture.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” – Marcus Garvey

History

The first ever BHM event was held in London in 1987. Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, coordinator of Special Projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) at the time, is acknowledged as the originator of BHM in the UK and creating a collaboration to get it under way.

A colleague of mine, a woman, came to work one morning, looking very downcast and not herself. I asked her what the matter was, and she confided to me that the previous night when she was putting her son Marcus to bed he asked her, “Mum, why can’t I be white?”

The mother was taken aback. She said that she was so shocked that she didn’t know how to respond to her son. The boy that had been named after Marcus Garvey had asked why he couldn’t be white!

– Akyaaba Addai Sebbo

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It can arguably be said that the catalyst for BHM started eighteen months before the GLC was abolished in 1986. What followed in the months leading up to the GLC’s abolition was a concerted effort to find ways of carrying on the progressive equalities work of the GLC. The London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU) made up of 15 Local Authorities, formed the body that took over the radical bits of the GLC after its abolition.

 

Linda Bellos, the then leader of Lambeth Council, remembers Ansell Wong, the then Head of the Ethnic Minority Unit, approaching her with the idea of initiating Black History Month in the UK.

Continue reading “Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary”

Diversity and Inclusion Week – Age Diversity in the Workplace: Multigenerational Working

Employers are now seeing five different generations of employees working side-by-side in their workplaces. The five different generations are defined as:

  • Traditionalists: 70 year olds – 80+;
  • Babyboomers: 50 year olds – late 60s;
  • Generation X: late 30s – late 40s;
  • Generation Y/Millennials: 20 year olds – early 30s); and
  • Generation Z/Digital Natives: born now-late teens. (Source: Virgin.com)

Delayed retirement and increased longevity mean that we have workforces that are ageing and therefore becoming increasingly multigenerational. Whilst this in itself is enriching for workplaces, employers will need to take into account the differing needs, perspectives, skillsets and communication styles of their staff across the generations to ensure an inclusive, productive working environment. Collaboration and employees’ understanding and appreciation of age diversity will also be key to fostering inclusion in the workplace.

The Assembly Commission recognises these challenges. To this end the overarching aim of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is to continue to foster an inclusive and collaborative takes account of all protected characteristics, including age. We have also developed an introduction to unconscious bias training module for our staff and our workplace equality networks are multigenerational and work collaboratively together. We also conduct annual staff surveys which provide an opportunity for to staff to say how they think and feel about their workplace.

As an employer, we recognise the rich diversity that exists within a multigenerational working environment and the breadth of creativity, skill sets and perspectives from which we benefit. We will do all we can to recognise this as we progress in delivering our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy over the coming years.

Diversity and Inclusion Week: The Assembly as an Inclusive employer

We strive to be an inclusive employer that supports the needs of everyone that works here. We have a number of teams, policies and procedures in place to help us to develop an inclusive culture, and to ensure that our staff are supported, can be themselves and fulfil their potential.

“I believe it is important that the Assembly leads the way in promoting an inclusive    organisational culture and that it is a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact. It is incumbent on us as the National Assembly for Wales to lead on this and share our experiences, ensuring that the values of equality, diversity and inclusion are respected and practiced by all,”

Elin Jones AM, LLywydd, National Assembly for Wales.

Workplace networks

Our workplace equality networks help us to promote inclusion internally and externally by taking forward diversity campaigns, providing peer support, sharing best practice and by helping the Assembly Commission to consider equality, diversity and inclusion in our work.

They are a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand, to come together. They help is to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all. This week, we are launching MINDFUL, our mental health and wellbeing network.

External recognition

We have received a number of accolades that demonstrate our commitment to fully supporting our staff, fostering an inclusive working environment and providing inclusive services. These standards acknowledge the progressive policies that we have in place and help us to maintain a best practice approach. Recent achievements include:

  • being ranked fifth in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2017, ranked the top public sector employer in the UK and named the Top Public Sector organisation in Wales for the fourth year running. Ross Davies, our Diversity and Inclusion Manager, was also named Stonewall Cymru’s Ally of the Year;
  • retaining our National Autistic Society Award for being an autism-friendly employer and service provider;
  • being listed as a top 10 family friendly employer in the UK by Working Families Organisation;
  • being designated as a Disability Confident Employer and Age Positive Employer;
  • retaining the Investors in People Gold Standard, the international mark of global excellence. Organisations that meet the world-recognised standard reflect the very best in people management and our achievement of the gold award demonstrates our continuing aim of being an employer of first choice.
  • winning Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards for our service to people who are deaf or have a hearing loss; and
  • Achieving the Action on Hearing Loss Louder than Words Charter Mark.

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What our staff say

We think a good way to tell you more about what we do, is to let some of our people tell you themselves:

“Adjustments have been made to my working pattern in order to achieve a work-life balance that is appropriate for me, including working condensed hours and term-time working. These adjustments have proven to be extremely valuable.”

“It took me 3 years to come ‘out’ in my previous job; it took me less than 3 weeks to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone accepts everyone else for who they are.”

“I do not feel disabled when I come to work, as I am treated with respect and my skills are appreciated.”

“As a deaf member of staff I am well supported in my role. Colleagues have adjusted their working practices and I have been provided with the necessary equipment to enable me to make a full contribution to the team.”

“Since joining our BME staff network, I feel reassured knowing my views have a place to be heard and valued. It makes me feel supported in my work and gives me the confidence that I can influence change in the organisation.”

“I joined the staff disability network after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FM) a few years ago in the hope of having some influence in the development and revision of corporate/HR policies in terms of how these affected people with all disabilities (having worked closely with the Diversity and Inclusion team), but particularly such invisible conditions as FM. I am pleased that, as a collective voice, the network has been able to influence some of these policies and get things changed.”

“Without the support, understanding and flexibility of line managers and advice and support from the occupational health nurse I doubt that I would be in work today”

Diversity and Inclusion Week: Banter, harassment and inappropriate behaviour

We all have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and bullying, and to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect. Harassment and bullying cannot be tolerated as they undermine confidence, can affect mental and physical health, erodes morale and can damage team cohesion, productivity and effectiveness.

A fine line can exist between a light-hearted atmosphere among a happy productive team and employees overstepping the mark and leaving the business open to claims. However, it is clear that any workplace culture or office banter must not offend or isolate members of staff and that any jokes, nicknames or conversations must not relate to any protected characteristic (age, disability, gender identity, pregnancy, race, religion / belief, sex, sexual orientation). The Assembly has a Dignity at Work policy that has a zero tolerance approach to such behaviour.

What’s the difference between banter and harassment?

Banter could be defined as good natured teasing, joking or repartee that doesn’t offend anyone. Harassment is unwanted, distressful and hurtful words or behaviour. It is unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. It is important to remember that harassment includes conduct that may not be intentional but nevertheless has the effect of harassing an individual. The fact that an individual did not intend to cause offence or hurt is not an acceptable excuse.

Common sense, context, good taste and individuals’ relationships with each other will normally dictate which remarks are, and which are not, enjoyable and acceptable.

Sometimes good friends and colleagues can build up relationships which involve constant mickey-taking of each other. But don’t let this style of humour become your default. It’s often a natural instinct for someone to laugh along and pretend they’re not bothered, when really they are.

Whilst often the harshest of banter may occur between the closest of friends, always stop to consider whether it may cause offence to someone else who may have joined the conversation at a later stage, or someone who may be within earshot.

Often teams of employees have been together for a long period of time and have developed a culture of good-natured ribbing or humorous insults. If any of these comments is objectionable in tone and aimed toward a protected class, you may have an illegal situation forming in your workplace.

Are you displaying inappropriate behaviour?

Is it possible that you are unaware of the effect your behaviour has on others? The following are examples of phrases that should not be used to excuse, or hide, behaviour that, in reality, constitutes bullying:

  • ‘Strong or robust management style’.
  • ‘A personality clash’.
  • Describing someone as ‘oversensitive’ or ‘unable to take a joke’.
  • A manager who does ‘not suffer fools gladly’.
  • A ‘hard task-master’.

Consider the position of the other person: are they more junior than you? Have they recently joined the team? Are they in a minority in the team, e.g. a women working in a predominately male environment? All these things may make them feel more sensitive to comments, and less able to complain about it.

Think about the rest of your team. Any comment you make doesn’t exist in isolation, it also contributes to an environment where that type of humour is accepted. You may only make one joke, but if you are the tenth person to make a similar of joke that day, the recipient’s sense of humour will wear thin pretty quickly. If one person always seems to be the butt of office jokes, don’t wait for HR to tell you to cut it out.

Be especially cautious of email. It’s all too easy to forward a “hilarious” joke or video to several recipients at once, but if some of them find it offensive then it’s not much of an excuse to say that you were just passing it on. We have special rules about use of IT systems, plus there will be a paper trail showing exactly what you sent. If you wouldn’t be happy to copy in the head of HR and the head of IT, then don’t click send.

Here’s a good rule of thumb – imagine your comment being read out in a barrister’s withering tones in front of a scowling judge. Stripped of its context in the jokey back-and-forth between workmates, anything close to the knuckle is going to sound that much worse.

If your boss takes disciplinary action against you for comments you’ve made; it’s usually best to apologise, promise to be more sensitive in future. This puts the ball back in their court and will usually stand you in better stead that insisting that you haven’t done anything wrong because it was all “just a joke” – remember, this is no defence!

What can you do if you witness or experience inappropriate behaviour?

The Assembly Commission’s Dignity at Work policy has the following principles in place:

  • Employees should be encouraged to raise their concerns with management either informally or through a formal grievance.
  • Employees should be left under no illusions that any banter or conduct which is deemed to be unacceptable will result in disciplinary action.
  • Managers must not stand by and tolerate clearly offensive conduct but take steps to prevent it. Managers who overhear or witness any potentially offensive conduct must take steps to address it or ensure it is not repeated
  • Inform your entire team of the difference between workplace banter and actual verbal harassment. Don’t accept excuses like, “It’s just a joke” or “We’ve always talked this way.” Demand a zero-tolerance culture in your workplace, and inform every person on your team of this policy.
  • Challenge inappropriate and unacceptable language and behaviour. TO not challenge, could be seen as condoning the behaviour.
  • Investigate any accusations of harassment immediately to make sure of all the details. If you find an employee that has been harassing others, take appropriate steps to rectify the situation immediately.

Sources:

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/difference-between-verbal-harassment-workplace-banter-35576.html

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/legal-guide-workplace-banter-crosses-7659431

http://www.cityjobs.com/cityblog/2013/04/17/avoid-office-banter-harassment-workplace/

Diversity and Inclusion Week: The Assembly Commission’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

The Assembly Commission’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy sets out our diversity and inclusion objectives for 2017-21 and the steps we need to take to deliver against these objectives. The strategy will also help us plan how we comply with the duties placed on the Assembly Commission by the Government of Wales Act 2006 and also by the Equality Act 2010, covering each of the protected characteristics and other issues such as caring responsibilities, social mobility and other inequalities.

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It is important to us that the Assembly continues to be accessible to the people of Wales and beyond: making it relevant, easy and meaningful for people to interact with it and contribute to its work. It is also important to us that we behave as an inclusive employer, enabling everyone we employ to realise their full potential.

We are finalising our action plan which details what activities we need to pursue to meet these objectives and how we will monitor our progress and success in meeting them.

We will ensure that our staff understand the part they play in helping our organisation deliver on our diversity and inclusion objectives and realise our diversity and inclusion vision and values.  Each year, we publish and Annual Diversity and Inclusion Report which provides an update on progress made in meeting our objectives.

We have identified five diversity and inclusion objectives and here we set out a summary of planned activities:

Objective One: Fostering Inclusive Leadership and an Inclusive Workplace Culture

We will ensure senior accountability, inclusive leadership, and continue to support and develop our Workplace Equality Networks (WENs).

Objective Two: Building on our Approach to Organisational Development

We will look for opportunities to identify and raise awareness of potential barriers to inclusion through collaboration with our workplace equality networks, the ongoing use of equality impact assessments and other appropriate awareness-raising activities such as our annual Diversity and Inclusion Week.

We will continue to benchmark our diversity and inclusion work with other organisations through peer review and other external recognition activities.

We will ensure that staff receive current, relevant diversity and inclusion training and information throughout their employment to support them to help us realise our diversity and inclusion vision and values.

Our workplace policies will continue to be inclusive in the way that they are drafted and reviewed, including being subject to equality impact assessment, which includes input from our workplace equality networks.

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Objective Three: Supporting Assembly Members and their Staff to build Diversity into their work

We will support Assembly Members and their staff to build diversity and inclusion into their roles as employers, as service providers and into their work as caseworkers, scrutineers and legislators.

We will continue to feed diversity and inclusion considerations into the work of the independent Remuneration Board of the National Assembly for Wales.

We will also work with the Business Committee and the Committee Chairs’ Forum, to explore how to strengthen the ways that diversity and inclusion are taken into account in Assembly business procedures and practices and when legislating to exercise any new devolved powers to the Assembly.

We want to broaden the reach of the Assembly to individuals and communities who are not currently engaged with its work or with the work of Assembly Members. We want to make information about the Assembly and its work to be increasingly easy to access and meaningful to the people of Wales.

We will also regularly review policies and arrangements for visitors to the Assembly to ensure that they are inclusive and promote access to all.

Objective Four: Supporting Assembly Commission Staff to build Diversity and Inclusion into their work

In order to ensure that inclusion is at the heart of decision-making across service areas, we will ensure that equality impact assessments are conducted whenever we change or initiate something new.

Service planning will take account of how service areas will deliver, where appropriate, on the objectives set out in this strategy. This approach will ensure that diversity and inclusion considerations are at the core of our day-to-day work.

We will take into account diversity and inclusion when buying-in goods and services.

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Objective Five: Behaving as an Inclusive Employer which attracts and retains the widest pool of talent where all staff have the opportunity to realise their full potential

We recognise that every member of our talented workforce, irrespective of their background, deserves to realise their full potential and progress in their careers.

We continue to address imbalances in representation of BME colleagues and disabled colleagues particularly at senior management level. We will support our existing staff and adjust where necessary, our recruitment attraction arrangements, exploring employment outreach activities and whether exploring and using positive action initiatives would be beneficial.

We will also maintain an ongoing review of our overall recruitment and selection processes to identify and remove any barriers to inclusion.

We collect and use workforce, recruitment and pay diversity data to identify and address any inequalities.

For any further information about our strategy, contact diversity@assembly.wales

Diversity and Inclusion Week: Message from the Chief Executive and Clerk

photo of manon Antoniazzi, the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly

The senior team and I are wholly committed to ensuring that as an employer and parliamentary organisation, we are an exemplar in our promotion of diversity, inclusion, equality and provision of accessible services. In order to deliver this, we have developed our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and accompanying action plan which will help us deliver our diversity and inclusion vision and values:

Vision

We want to continue to be an exemplar organisation in valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and embedding equality, both as an employer and parliamentary organisation. Our organisation is accessible and engages with and respects the people of Wales and beyond.

Values

From our corporate values which define the way we work, we have identified our Diversity and Inclusion values and we:

  • ensure diversity, inclusion and equality are embedded throughout our organisation and informs our approach to how we deliver services, recruit and manage staff, support Assembly Members and engage with the people of Wales;
  • challenge and strive to eliminate harassment and discrimination;
  • recognise and address barriers to inclusion, access and participation;
  • behave as an inclusive employer and accessible parliamentary organisation;
  • aim for our workforce to be representative of our diverse society, including at a senior level;
  • encourage and widen participation in Assembly activities and engagement with the Assembly from people across Wales; and
  • promote positive attitudes towards diversity and inclusion and foster good relations between different groups of people.

The Strategy sets out how our staff deliver and promote inclusive, accessible services and achieve positive outcomes for people. It will also help us plan how we comply with the duties placed on the Assembly Commission by the Government of Wales Act 2006 and also by the Equality Act 2010, covering each of the protected characteristics[1] and other issues such as caring responsibilities, social mobility and other inequalities.

As an employer and service provider, our organisation is committed to ensuring that no-one is disadvantaged or discriminated against on these grounds: discriminatory behaviour will be dealt with via our disciplinary procedures. Also, as an employer, we encourage flexible working practices whilst accommodating our business needs.

In line with the Assembly Commission’s strategic goals, it is important to us that the Assembly continues to be accessible to the people of Wales and beyond: making it relevant, easy and meaningful for people to interact with it and contribute to its work. It is also important to us that we behave as an inclusive employer, attracting and retaining talent, enabling everyone we employ to realise their full potential.

I will ensure that our staff understand the part they play in helping our organisation deliver on our diversity and inclusion objectives and realise our diversity and inclusion vision and values.

We aim to achieve the best possible equalities outcomes for both our workforce and everyone who interacts with the National Assembly for Wales. I hope you will do all you can to work in a way that continues to achieve real, measurable diversity and inclusion improvements of which we can be proud.

Manon Antoniazzi

Chief Executive and Clerk

[1] Protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation

The National Day for Staff Networks – 10 May 2017

By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Network Coordinator and Co-Chair of the Assembly’s Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Workplace Equality Network

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Logo for the National Day for Staff Networks

The National Day for Staff Networks will be the UK’s first ever day dedicated to celebrating all workplace networks, recognising the value and contribution networks provide to organisations and the fact that networks are making work better.

The day aims to encourage staff networks to celebrate collaboratively and shout about their achievements, and to change the conversation about workplace networks so that they are seen as business critical and effective mechanisms of innovation and inclusion.

Our networks are referred to as Workplace Equality Networks (WENs) to reflect the fact that they are open to all Assembly Members, AMSS, Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to join either members or as allies. They are a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand, to come together. We recognise that anyone, not only those directly affected, can have an interest in a particular equality issue.

The Assembly recognises that the WENs are instrumental in helping the organisation to attain its aim to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all and to be a democratic institution and legislature that delivers effectively for all the people of Wales. We acknowledge that the participation of our networks is therefore a critical part of the employment relationship and not an addition function to an employee’s job description.

We are therefore pleased to take part in the day, with the WENs organising activities and articles to promote the networks and our recognition of their value to us.

Continue reading “The National Day for Staff Networks – 10 May 2017”