Enterprise, Innovation and Skills Committee: One year in – Stakeholder event

A year after its first stakeholder event in July 2016, the Economy Infrastructure and Skills (EIS) Committee invited a wide range of stakeholders back to reflect on the highlights of the year and to consider the Committee’s emerging priorities for next year.

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What happened?

On 19 July 2017, Members of the committee and stakeholders discussed how the committee has delivered its work programme and what we can do to drive things forward, in particular:

  • What were the highlights of the Committee’s first year? And what could the Committee have done better?
  • What the key trends or events over the next 12-18 months?
  • Is the timing right and is anything missing in the Committee’s initial thinking about future work?

Key themes emerging from much of the discussions were the impact of Brexit and the importance of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming economic strategy.

Thanks for the participants

Russell George AM, chair of the EIS Committee, thanked contributors for sharing their expertise. He said:

“A year after we first invited a range of stakeholders to inform us about what we should do as a committee, we wanted to hear what they thought of what we have done. And to see what they thought of some of our emerging ideas for the coming year.

”After today’s discussions, I believe that we are on the right track to develop a work programme which incorporates the views of stakeholders from across the three main strands of our remit – the economy, infrastructure and skills.”

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What happens next?

The clerking team will use the ideas and comments from stakeholders to inform a paper for the Committee to consider in September setting out priorities and inquiries for the coming year.

A Stronger Voice for Wales in a Changing Britain

You don’t have to be a constitutional expert to have your say on constitutional issues.

The National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has been looking at how Wales works with other Parliaments and Governments: the relationship between them, how well they work together and share ideas. By understanding current and past relationships, the Committee want to be able to recommend the best model of working for the future.

Different legislature buildings

But what sort of relationship does the people of Wales want our institution to have with other parliaments and governments?

Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Chair of the Committee will deliver a talk at this year’s National Eisteddfod focusing on what he will argue are the most profound constitutional challenges the people of Wales have faced for many generations, both as a nation – Wales – and as a family of nations within the United Kingdom. How Wales rises to those challenges will be the defining test of our generation.

The National Eisteddfod is of course a celebration of traditional Welsh culture and arts and language, but it is also a place where the identity of Wales and its people is constantly imagined and re-imagined. It is also where the politics and constitution of Wales – and Wales within the United Kingdom – have been hotly discussed and debated down the decades, on the Maes and off.

A UK which is negotiating its way out of membership of the EU. An England which is perhaps confused about its identity – or its multiple identities – and is experimenting with different forms of devolution in London and now in its grand metropolitan cities & regions. A Scotland which voted in one referendum to stay as part of the UK, with a government which toyed with the idea of a second referendum, yet has gone cool on the idea – at least for now. And the institutions of Northern Ireland in suspended animation with the threat of Direct Rule hanging over them. A Wales with a Scotland-style Reserved Powers Model finally, but with some expert commentators – and indeed the Welsh Government itself – arguing that the Wales Act in combination with the EU (Withdrawal) Bill risks rolling devolution backwards.

'Wales should not be afraid of leading the way in developing clear, succinct and understandable law'

In this turbulent, fast-changing environment, it is absolutely right to ask the fundamental question of how we ensure Wales has a strong voice right now, and a stronger voice in the future. In the midst of all the cacophony and clamour, the strongest possible voice for Wales in this union of nations is an absolute imperative.

Join us at this year’s Eisteddfod

Monday 7 August

Societies Pavilion 2

11.30 – 12.30

The Chair of the National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies AM, will talk about its ‘Stronger Voice for Wales’ inquiry.

This will be followed by an opportunity to meet Members of the Committee to talk about these issues which will become particularly important as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Royal Welsh Show 2017

The National Assembly for Wales returns to the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells from 24 – 27 July with a new programme of events and the chance for the public to meet Assembly Members and staff and find out more about work our work. Based in the Green Pavilion, everyone is welcome to visit our stand to give your views and options on our work.

Taking place throughout the week

On the stand

Whether you’re familiar with our work or not, by the end of your visit to the Assembly stand you’ll have learnt something new about us and what we do. Enjoy a cuppa and learn about your Assembly Members, how they represent you and how you can get in touch with them to air your views and concerns. You can find out more about our current inquiries and upcoming work that may be of interest to you or your community.

For kids

While parents put their feet up, children can take part in different games and activities around the stand to help them learn more about what we do. They will be able to find out about making laws and have a go at voting about the hobbies and activities that are important to them. There are also games to play and colouring in for younger visitors.

Tell us what makes you proud of Wales

We’re proud of our country. Our history, our culture, our heroes, our language, our land – our home. Most of all we’re proud to represent you, the people of Wales, and to make decisions and create laws that will shape the future of Welsh life. We want you to tell us what you love most about life in Wales and what makes you proud. Share your views with us on the stand or tell us on Twitter using #myWales.

Sessions and Events

Wednesday 26 July

09.00-10.00 Stronger Voice for Wales Stakeholder Breakfast Event (Constitutional andLegislative Affairs Committee), National Assembly for Wales stand

You don’t have to be a constitutional expert to have your say on constitutional issues. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee are looking at how Wales works with other parliaments and governments and want to hear from people and organisations who have experience of giving evidence at UK and Welsh levels and what barriers they may have faced. By asking these questions and hearing their experiences, the Committee would be able to recommend the best model of working for the future.

Thursday 27 July

10.30-11.30 Launch of Inquiry into Rethinking Food in Wales (Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee), Food and Drink Hall

What’s your vision for the future of food and drink in Wales and what needs to be done to achieve it? Members of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee will be meeting with stallholders to launch and discuss their new inquiry into rethinking food in Wales. By meeting with food producers and exhibitors the Committee hopes to learn more about how Wales could create an innovative food industry sustaining high quality jobs, and become an internationally renowned destination for food lovers.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you at the Royal Welsh Show. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the week for the latest Assembly news from the showground.

 

 

 

 

Right to Buy: Here’s what you need to know about proposed changes in Wales

Do the Right to Buy schemes help tenants access home ownership or negatively impact on local communities? Should they be abolished or suspended?

These are some of the questions tenants from across Wales discussed with us as part of our investigation of the proposed law to abolish the Right to Buy and Associated Rights in Wales.

What is Right to Buy?

The Right to Buy scheme was introduced in the UK in 1980 to allow most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount.

However the Welsh Government has recently proposed changes in law that would end the Right to Buy scheme in Wales.

Their stated aim with this change is to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from reducing further, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to access the housing market to buy or rent a home.

We have been examining the Welsh Government’s decision to propose this law to ensure that it is in the best interests of Wales and its communities.

What do the proposed changes mean?

Under the proposed law, The Right to Buy for tenants of local authorities and registered landlords would be abolished after a period of at least one year following the introduction of the law.

Some local authorities, including Flintshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey have already suspended the Right to Buy scheme.

The Right to Buy and Associated Rights have already been brought to an end by the Scottish Government in Scotland, but a different approach is being taken in England by the UK Government.

The proposed law would end the Right to Buy scheme in all local authorities across Wales.

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Want to know our recommendations to the
Welsh Government on changes to Right to Buy?

Download the report »


How could the changes affect me?

In making sure that existing tenants are aware of the changes, the proposed law requires the Welsh Government to publish information on its effects before abolition takes place, and social landlords must in turn provide that information to every affected tenant within two months of the proposed law coming into force.

After a waiting period of at least one year after coming into force, all rights will be abolished. This means every affected tenant can still exercise their Right to Buy within that period, but not after.

Your views

Alongside a public consultation, a key part of this examination involved engaging and working with tenants from across Wales to help understand what the proposed changes meant for them.

By holding discussions in Cardiff, Newcastle Emlyn, Colwyn Bay, and Ynys Môn, as well as online on Dialogue and Facebook, tenants from across Wales were given an opportunity to participate, discuss and share their views and ideas on the proposed law and whether they felt improvements could be made.

Council housing should be for those in need” – Tenant, Ynys Môn County Council Tenant Participation Group

There was broad support for the proposed law from tenants and other organisations who gave evidence, and the need to abolish the Right to Buy to to ensure that those in greatest need have access to affordable homes and prevent further loss of social housing.

Having heard all of the evidence, the Committee has agreed that abolishing the right to buy will ensure that existing and new social housing stays within the social housing sector and will be available to be used for its original purpose, namely as a means of providing affordable rented accommodation for those in greatest need.

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Impact on eligible tenants and home ownership

The majority of tenants acknowledged the squeeze that people now feel in trying to access the housing market.

The average annual salary in some areas in Wales is less than the minimum salary needed to qualify for Help to Buy schemes and a number of tenants are employed through zero hour contracts.

Tenants in Anglesey said that the average salary of residents was £14,000, which was less than the minimum required to qualify for Help to Buy.

As a result, the Committee believes that it is important to raise awareness and promote understanding of home ownership schemes with tenants before the Abolition of the Right to Buy takes place.

Duty to provide information to tenants

Many tenants expressed their concerns over how this change would be communicated with tenants. There is no detail in the proposed law about how the required information should be communicated to tenants or adapted to meet their varying needs.

As a result, the Committee recommends that the Welsh Government makes the necessary changes in the proposed law to ensure that this information is communicated to tenants in the most appropriate and accessible way to meet their varying needs. The Welsh Government should test the information with tenants before it is finalised to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

“…everything requires access to social media and the net now…anything that happens now quotes a www. resource …people will be uniformed if the information isn’t accessible” – Tenant, TPAS South Wales Network

 

What are the next steps?

Now that the Committee has given its recommendations to the Welsh Government on how the proposed law can be improved, the Welsh Government will have an opportunity to respond.

Before changes can be made to the proposed law, the Committee’s recommendations will be debated amongst all of the Assembly Members who represent the people of Wales on 18 July 2017.

For all the latest information and developments you can also

  • follow the Committee on twitter @SeneddELGC; and
  • visit the Committee homepage on the proposed law.

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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.

all benchmark logos 2017

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/