Tag: Disabled People

Diversity and Inclusion Week – Workplace Equality Networks By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Network Coordinator

By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Network Coordinator

What are Workplace Equality Networks (WENs)?

As Network Coordinator I see the WENs as a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand (i.e. gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion/belief, age, pregnancy/maternity, sex, marriage/civil partnership and disability), to come together to:

  • give and receive pastoral care;
  • share information relating to equality; promote equality issues related to their group;
  • access learning opportunities to build skills that will help individuals develop personally as well as in their career, and
  • act as critical agents for change within the organisation.

Who are the WENs open to?

The networks are open to all Assembly Members, AMSS, Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to join as either members or as allies, as they recognise that anyone, not only those directly affected, can have an interest in a particular equality issue. This interest can exist for many reasons, including because of a connection to someone who is affected e.g. a child, spouse or relative or because of the belief it’s ‘the right thing’. Allies are welcome because to achieve real Diversity and Inclusion requires a collective effort involving everyone.

What are the benefits of the WENs for the individual?

For an individual the networks can:

  • Provide informal peer support and advice.
  • Offer a platform for discussing issues affecting members of the networks.
  • Enhance career development and progression for staff, through various programmes, including mentoring opportunities.
  • Present networking opportunities.
  • Give members the chance to identify and advise the Assembly Commission on the issues which affect staff, through impact assessment of policies.

What are the benefits of the WENs for the organisation?

Because of their access and insight these networks can help us to:

  • Understand the value in managing and harnessing the potential of an increasingly diverse workforce.
  • Recruit and retain the most talented people.
  • Provide the best service to stakeholders.
  • Make a positive difference to the working culture of the Assembly.

They do this because the collective intelligence of the WENs:

  • Make it possible for us to understand what it is like to work in that environment from the perspective of the members.
  • Enable us to understand our diverse service users.
  • Serve as effective consultative and advisory bodies on diversity related matters.

The networks input leads to better policies and procedures which means happier employees who can be themselves, resulting in an organisation that performs better and is therefore better able to attract and retain top talent.

The Assembly recognises that the networks are instrumental to the organisation in its aim to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all. It supports the networks and would encourage all Assembly Members, Assembly Member Support Staff (AMSS), Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to support and enable their staff to participate in and engage with network activities.

Our current networks are:

EMBRACE LOGOEMBRACE – our disability network. It is open to disabled people, those who support disabled people and people with an interest in disability equality. Within EMBRACE are subsidiary dyslexia and chronic pain groups. Chaired by Abi Phillips

 

INSPIRE logoINSPIRE – our women’s network. It’s open to both men and women. Co-chaired by Sarah Crosbie and Janette Iliffe

 

 

OUT NAW logo OUT-NAW – our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and    Transgender (LGBT) network. It is a closed group for LGBT people, it is open to LGBT people as members and people with an interest in LGBT equality as allies. Co-chaired by Craig Stephenson  and  Jayelle Robinson-Larkin

TEULU logo

TEULU – our Working Parent and Carer network, is currently a virtual network that operates mainly online.  New network members and network allies are always welcome. Co-chaired by Holly Pembridge and Joel Steed

REACH logo

REACH – The Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage network is our Black Minority Ethnic (BME) network. It is open to BME people as members and people who support race equality as allies. Co-chaired by Abi Lasebikan and Raz Roap

 

The Networks have contributed to and raised the profile of the organisation in a variety of ways. They have:

  • Input into many impact assessment of policies and projects, such as the Accessible Car Parking policy, Human Resources Priority Postings policy, EFM refurbishments projects, etc.
  • Attended events, like: Pride and Sparkle, Stonewall Cymru’s Workplace Equality Index Awards, All Wales Annual Race Equality Conference, Mela, etc.
  • Participated in community incentives, like collecting for the Cardiff Foodbank.
  • Produced a range of blogs, factsheets and guidance on a variety of topics, such as: Ramadan, Cultural Diversity, Invisible Disabilities, Bisexual Awareness, Mental Health, etc.
  • Worked closely with other public sector organisations, such as Gwent and South Wales Police, Welsh Government, Cardiff University, to promote diversity and inclusion.

That is just a flavour of the impressive achievements of the networks. Further information on the networks can be found at: http://members/networks.

Championing the WENs

A senior champion is someone who openly supports the WENs at the highest level of the organisation. They are vocal about the achievements of the network and how it benefits the organisation as well as willing to lend the weight of their leadership to the network. I am pleased to say that both Dave Tosh and Craig Stephenson are not only champions for BME and LGBT issues respectively but have agreed to champion equality issues as a whole on the Management Board.

“As the BME Champion I can act as a voice, at Director level, and work with the network to help support our BME staff to address some of the issues affecting them”. Dave Tosh, Director of Resources and BME Champion

The Champions can also be a beacon to others that the organisation is truly an inclusive organisation that recognises talent, irrespective of whether the person belongs to a protected characteristic group.

“It’s very important that there are visible LGBT people at all levels within the organisation, and also that people see that being from a minority group hasn’t hindered peoples’ ability to reach more senior levels. Personally, I think that if you have reached a position which gives you visibility, and if you can inspire someone else, if you can lead by example, you should.” Craig Stephenson

Not every disability is visible – ‘Invisible disabilities’

Not every disability is visible image
Image of person with shadow of a person in a wheelchair, with caption ‘Not every disability is visible.’

When people think of disabilities they think of someone in a wheelchair when in fact, according to the English federation of Disability Sport in 2014 there are only around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, roughly 2% of UK population. The reality is a person doesn’t always ‘look’ ill when they’re dealing with a health issue. Despite popular belief the majority of impairments are not visible. Out of the millions of disabled people living in the UK, only a small percentage have illnesses that can actually be seen. These people are living with an invisible disability.

 

What is meant by invisible disability

Not all disabilities look like this image
Image of person and person in a wheelchair with caption ‘Not all disabilities look like this. Some disabilities look like this.’

Invisible disabilities refers to a wide range of conditions and illnesses that are not immediately apparent or visible, and therefore obvious. They include: cognitive dysfunctions; brain injuries; learning difficulties; epilepsy; cancer; diabetes, sickle cell, fibromyalgia; HIV; Aids; gastrointestinal problems; myalgic encephalopathy or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME); mental health conditions, as well as hearing and visual impairments, to name a few. It is worth noting that someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disabilities, for example a person in a wheelchair may also have a mental health condition.

 

What are the challenges of living with an invisible disability

Like any disabled person a person living with an invisible disability faces stigma, exclusion and discrimination and the constant task of challenging misconceptions about their conditions. However, people with invisible disabilities may not always experience discrimination in the same way as someone with a noticeable disability. They can also face obstacles such as being accused of misusing accessible toilets, disabled parking spaces, and other facilities.

“When somebody doesn’t look ill, it’s easy to make the assumption that they’re lazy or mean or not thinking of others. But when I go to the accessible toilets it’s because I have my ostomy bag and I do need a bit more space and running water.” Sam Cleasby, Disability Campaigner

A person with an invisible disability has a right not to be made to explain their illness to a stranger. We need to understand that for many, using accessible toilets or disabled parking spaces is not a luxury or privilege. It’s a necessity in order for them to lead their lives.

Those who judge are undoubtedly not doing it out of malice, but from a genuine desire to and belief that they’re defending the rights of people who are genuinely in need. But even if that assumption comes from a place of kindness it is best not to make assumptions. You might think you’re doing the right thing, but you could be making it worse for somebody already struggling.

Invisible Disabilities and the National Assembly for Wales

As an employer we recognise that, according to NOMIS’s Annual Population Survey March 2013, 20.8% of the working age population in the UK (8.3 million people) had a disability. We understand that encouraging applications from disabled people is good for business. It can help us to:

  • increase the number of high quality applicants available;
  • create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers we serve and the community in which we are based, and
  • bring additional skills to the business, such as the ability to use British Sign Language (BSL), which could result in large savings. The costs of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees are often low. The benefits of retaining an experienced, skilled employee who has acquired an impairment are usually greater than recruiting and training new staff. It is also good for the individual.

That is why as an employer, the Assembly is committed to promoting equality of opportunity for Commission staff, Assembly Members and their staff and the people of Wales. We strive to be an inclusive organisation that values everyone that works here, their diverse perspectives, skillsets and range of backgrounds. To that end we are proud to have:

  • A range of facilities on site to ensure that we are an accessible organization: including a range of different toilet facilities such as gender neutral toilets, accessible toilets, a Changing Places facility with adult hoist, and toilets for people with mobility issues. To find out more about our accessible facilities, visit Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website.
  • Great policies, such as flexible working, including career break, part-time working, job share, term time working, condensed hours working and special leave.

    positive about disabled people
    Positive about disabled people tick logo
  • Signed up to the ‘Positive about Disability’ scheme. A scheme that demonstrates to people that we are positive about employing and retaining disabled people. As part of the scheme we have committed to the two tick guaranteed interview scheme. Guarantying an interview to people with disabilities if they meet the essential requirements for the position.
  • Workplace equality networks within the Assembly open to Assembly Commission staff, Assembly Members and their staff, including EMBRACE – our disability network. These networks provide: informal peer support and advice on diversity, inclusion and equality issues and share information related to equality; promote equality issues related to their group; enhance career development and progression for staff, including mentoring opportunities; and identify issues which affect staff, including advising the Assembly Commission on issues which affect staff through impact assessment of policies.

    Embrace logo image
    Embrace disability network of the National Assembly for Wales logo
  • Health, Safety and Wellbeing and Occupational Health teams, which offer a wide range of services to assist employees in managing their health and well-being. This includes assisting staff returning to work after periods of absence and counselling and support services through the Employee Assistance Programme.

Top things to remember about invisible disabilities:

  • Not everyone with a disability uses a wheelchair or has a physical disability.
  • Many people with invisible disabilities experience, on a daily basis, judgment over using facilities such as accessible toilets and disabled parking spaces, because people cannot see their illness. Don’t make assumptions and never be confrontational or aggressive.
  • They don’t and shouldn’t be made to explain themselves to strangers.
  • With the right support many disabled people are able and willing to work.

International Day of Disabled People – 3 December

Did you know that the Assembly is a disability confident organisation?

To mark International Day of Disabled People, we wanted to let you know about some of the support that we have available for disabled people.

We subscribe to the social model of disability. The social model looks at the barriers erected by society in terms of disabled people being able to access goods and services. It seeks to remove unnecessary barriers which prevent disabled people participating in society, accessing work and living independently. The social model asks what can be done to remove barriers to inclusion. It also recognises that attitudes towards disabilities create unnecessary barriers to inclusion and requires people to take proactive action to remove these barriers.

Positive about disabled people logo
Positive about disabled people logo

To encourage applications from disabled people, we operate the guaranteed interview scheme for disabled people. This scheme guarantees disabled people an interview if they meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy. We will make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates invited to interview.

 

 

For our disabled staff:

    • Our staff policies are inclusive of disabled people. For example, we have a robust dignity at work policy to deal with inappropriate behaviour.
    • We have an active disability staff network called EMBRACE, who provide peer support to disabled staff and help us promote disability equality. They also help us to consider the needs of disabled people when making decisions and designing policies.
    • We provide a suite of disability-related training, including training that covers supporting disabled staff and visitors, deaf awareness and BSL training, autism awareness training, and dementia friendly training.
    • We have an onsite Occupational Health Nurse and access to an Employee Assistance Programme that can provide counselling services to staff.

 

Logo for Embrace, our disability staff network
Logo for Embrace, our disability staff network

Here are some quotes from disabled members of staff about their experience of working here:

    • “The willingness with which the Assembly engages with Embrace really makes me feel that it values my opinions and experiences as a disabled member of staff. I am proud to be a member of the network and feel that I am helping to make a real difference to the organisation and its staff.”
    • “My disability has a massive impact on my mobility and affects my working life. The support I have received from the Health and Safety Adviser has been outstanding. They have provided me with equipment to make my working day less painful and therefore more productive. The continuing support I receive from them helps me to remain working and I am extremely grateful to them.”
    • “I have been supported by the Occupational Health Nurse and have received counselling and stress management therapy through the Employee Assistance Programme. The Alexander Technique classes that have been arranged have also been extremely beneficial. Without all of this I doubt that I would still be working full time, if at all.”

 

For visitors, we ensure that our buildings are accessible and welcoming to disabled people.

    • We have lift access throughout our buildings;
    • Accessible parking is available;
    • There are loop systems throughout our buildings;
    • Our Front of House and Security staff have all undergone training on how to support disabled visitors;
    • We have Autism Champions across the organisation to welcome people with autism;
    • Some of our staff are trained in deaf awareness and British Sign Language;
    • We have a range of toilet facilities available, including a Changing Places facility, with a bed and a hoist.

 

We also have outreach, education and youth engagement teams that meet disabled people across Wales to tell them about the work of the Assembly and to listen to their views on issues that matter to them.

Photograph of members of the Mixed Up Group, a group of disabled young people from Swansea
Photograph of members of the Mixed Up Group, a group of disabled young people from Swansea

 

We have received recognition from external organisations that celebrate our accessibility.

  • Action on Hearing Loss has awarded us their Louder than Words Charter Mark for our commitment to supporting staff and visitors who are deaf or have a hearing loss. We also won their Action on Hearing Loss Cymru silver award at their Excellence Wales awards.

 

 

The National Autistic Society has awarded us their Access Award for supporting visitors with autism. We have a developed a webpage specifically for visitors with autism, trained Autism Champions and added de-stress toys to our quiet room.

 

A photograph of people celebrating the Assembly receiving the National Autistic Society’s Access Award
A photograph of people celebrating the Assembly receiving the National Autistic Society’s Access Award
Logo for the National Autistic Society Access Award
Logo for the National Autistic Society Access Award

Equality and Diversity Week 2015

This week, we will be sharing a series of blog articles as part of our Equality and Diversity Week., an initiative that we undertake each year to promote a range of equality-related topics. In this first article we outline what it’s like to work at the Assembly.

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 ensure that our staff are supported, can be themselves and fulfil their potential. We think a good way to tell you more about what we do, is to let some of our staff tell you themselves.

Being supported, being themselves and fulfilling their potential.

“It took me 3 years to come ‘out’ in my previous job; it took me less than 3 weeks to feel comfortable enough to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone accepts everyone else for who they are. I was able to be the new guy, not the new gay.”

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

Our Domestic Abuse Policy

“I didn’t understand why domestic abuse was a workplace issue. Hearing from a survivor of domestic abuse was important as it brought our policy to life.”

Our Flexible working arrangements

“Since becoming a parent, several adjustments have been made to my work pattern in order to achieve a work-life balance that is appropriate for me, including a working week of 32 hours over four days, no late-night working, and term-time working. This work pattern means that I am available every evening and during all school holidays. All of these adjustments have proven to be extremely valuable.”

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to work flexibly. I live quite a distance from Cardiff and have condensed my hours to enable me to work in Cardiff for four long days a week. Also, because of the distance I can occasionally work from home.”

“I am a single parent with caring responsibilities and feel very fortunate to be able to work reduced hours. This enables me to have a healthy work life balance.”

Reasonable adjustments that have been made

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

“The continued support of the Health and Safety Team has made it easier for me to come to work”.

“I am now using the ergonomic chair, which I find is having an amazing impact on my back and spine…the whole of my back feels ‘stronger’ since using the chair”.

Our engagement with the Staff networks

“The willingness with which the Assembly engages with Embrace, our disability staff network, really makes me feel that it values my opinions and experiences as a disabled member of staff.  I am proud to be a member of the network and feel that I am helping to make a real difference to the organisation and its staff.”

Case Study – Stonewall Work Experience placement

“I had a fantastic week at the National Assembly. The atmosphere and ethos of the institution is a credit to each member of staff. I don’t think Stonewall Cymru could have found a better example of a workplace where people can be who they are, celebrate difference, and achieve brilliant results: the impression emanates from the moment you walk into Tŷ Hywel, where you see the Stonewall Cymru Diversity Champions certificate proudly hung on the wall.”

Christian Webb who came to the Assembly as part of Stonewall Cymru’s Work Placement Scheme. The scheme seeks to give young people the experience of working in LGBT friendly workplaces. Read his full blog here.

We are proud to have received the following benchmarks and accreditations that celebrate our inclusive workplace:

  • Ranked 4 in the UK in Stonewall’s Top Employers for LGB people and named Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for the second year running. In addition, our network group was highly commended;
  • Listed as a Working Families Top 30 Employer during 2014;
  • Listed in The Times Top 50 Employer for Women in 2014;
  • Retained our commitment to the Positive About Disabled People and Age Champion campaigns;
  • Retained Action on Hearing Loss Louder than Words charter mark;
  • Achieved the National Autism Society Access Award; and
  • We retained our Investors in People Gold Standard.

To find out more about working for the Assembly visit our webpage.

equality week