East Devon District Council

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Policy Equality policy and Strategy 2017-20

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10. Principle 5: Meet specific needs

Our approach must not be based on the assumption that everyone is white British, and/or heterosexual. The way we operate and the images and language we use should reflect and be sensitive to the diverse communities we have, however small.

The categories below reflect the ‘protected characteristics’ as defined within the legal framework.

Age Equality: Applies to all people of all ages. But those at most risk of prejudice and discrimination are younger and older people.

  • Do not use age as a determining factor for physical or mental performance or as a deciding factor for access to services or employment including recruitment, training and promotion opportunities.
  • Age specific services, conditions and benefits may be provided if they meet a general or specific exception, or can be objectively justified or for positive action purposes.

Disability Equality: Applies to disabled people (covered by definition under the Equality Act 2010) including: people with a physical impairment, sensory impairment, learning disability or difficulty, mental health condition, long term health condition or illness, cognitive impairment or severe disfigurements.

The most frequent barriers faced by disabled people include: physical access to facilities, including transport, buildings, streets, communications access (written word or images, speech or sounds) attitudes and assumptions made, or stressful situations.

Take positive action:

• Take steps to meet the needs and achieve equal outcomes even if this requires ‘more favourable treatment’. For example, adjusting an application process, providing support or advocacy.

Make reasonable adjustments so that buildings are accessible and welcoming to disabled people:

  • Where possible, people with physical disabilities should be able to access buildings and environments through the same routes as other people. By making main entrances and routes fully accessible, people can get around the building independently and easily; access up a ramp at the rear of building can feel insulting and take longer
  • Provide clear and simple signage and maps which use easy words and symbols to aid communication and information
  • As part of access and improvement plans, adjust entry systems, reception points, waiting and public meeting rooms and security barriers so that people with communication or physical mobility difficulties can get through and communicate as easily as people without.
  • Check that automated doors allow enough time to get through
  • Install hearing loop systems and train staff how to use them
  • Make sure reception desks have a lowered section that is not obstructed.
  • Put buttons to open doors/access lifts at a height suitable for wheelchair users and keep free from obstruction to allow wheelchair uses to access them.
  • Consider evacuation procedures for disabled people in the event of an emergency. Wheelchair accessible fire exits should be clearly signposted and where there is more than one floor, safe areas with means of communication provided.
  • All public buildings must have an accessible toilet.

Gender Identity and reassignment, Sex Equality and pregnancy and maternity: Covers men, women, gender re-assignment, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity.

Those most at risk of prejudice and discrimination are women (who are often parents/carers of young children and older dependents), men with caring responsibilities and people undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment. When there is an imbalance of men and women, the minority gender may be disadvantaged.

  • Managers must support staff undergoing gender reassignment so they are able to work in a safe and positive environment and follow the guidance provided by Human Resources
  • Flexible working can help staff balance their lives inside and outside work. Where necessary, managers should support male and female staff making choices about their parenting, caring and work roles
  • Male and female staff will be paid the same for doing work of equal value and a job evaluation system is in use
  • Managers and learning providers should provide male and female staff equal opportunities for career development
  • Care should be taken not to reinforce gender stereotypes in the workplace
  • A positive attitude towards the rights of breast feeding mothers is necessary and mothers must not be prevented from breast feeding in public areas unless there are objective and reasonable grounds for doing so (i.e health and safety).

Racial Equality: Applies to all people, skin colour, race national origin, nationality, settled and travelling communities of Travellers and Gypsies, ethnicity (shared history, cultural traditions, ancestral origin, language). Those most at risk of prejudice and discrimination are those from ethnic minority, communities including Travellers and Gypsies.

  • We should recognise the relevance of, and prioritise, racial equality and ensure we challenge inequalities as well as celebrate diversity.

Religion and Belief Equality: Applies to all people – ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’, including those who follow a particular faith or religion, and those who do not, such as atheists and agnostics.

  • Show respect when people are fasting for religious reasons by being sensitive to the requirements and implications of fasting. Managers should support staff as appropriate.

Sexual Orientation Equality, Marriage and Civil Partnership: Applies to all people including heterosexual people. But gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are most at risk of prejudice and discrimination.

  • Acknowledge same-sex relationships and give partners equal access to services and benefits available to heterosexual and married couples.
  • When asking questions about marital status also include civil partnership; however people should not be expected to classify either/or unless this is relevant. Only ask questions that may reveal marital/partnership status or sexual orientation if it is essential. Where relevant, spouse/partner should be used instead of just ‘spouse’ or just husband/wife.
  • Encourage a culture of openness about sexual orientation, recognising at the same time that some staff may not be ‘out’ for family reasons, or for fear of how they may be treated, or may just choose not to be out, either at work or out of work. Everyone should avoid the assumption that people are heterosexual until forced to prove otherwise.

Although not specifically included within the definition, we also think it is important to include ‘children and vulnerable adults’ when considering the legal duty and ensure they are protected and supported by us.