Our commitment to diversity in our workforce: follow up letter

Published: 25 Apr 2017

Equality and Human Rights Chair David Isaac wrote a follow up letter to a number of race equality organisations to highlight our deep commitment to greater race equality and a more cohesive society.

Read his first letter.

Thank you for your letter of 10 April and for meeting with us on 27 March. It was helpful to have the opportunity to talk through the issues.

We have already discussed, and I outlined in my earlier letter, the challenges that the Commission faces in the future, and the need to ensure that its workforce is appropriately skilled to deliver on those challenges. I will therefore not repeat those points again here.

I am sorry that you remain concerned and I appreciate your perspective. It is however true to say that in recent weeks and months that I, together with my colleagues on the Board and Executive Team, have given very careful scrutiny to the process that the Commission has adopted throughout the period of change. We have considered both the process itself and the decisions that have been taken, and we have sought legal advice throughout. Having done so, as I said in my earlier letter, I am satisfied that we have taken every step we can to ensure that our change programme is in no way discriminatory.

That being the case, I’m afraid that I cannot agree to the steps you have proposed.

In respect of each of the points you raise regarding the data:

1. Number of BAME staff made redundant

It would not be right for us to make assumptions about the ethnic identity of the individuals concerned; rather we can only use the data that has been provided to us by the individuals themselves. It is the summary of that data which we previously provided.

As I have said before, I am confident that the process that the Commission has applied throughout has been fair and transparent, and that any decisions have been taken based on skills and skills alone. I can categorically assure you, again, that neither our restructure process nor the culture within the Commission is racially discriminatory. There is therefore no reason to involve an external agency to review the process and whilst I appreciate your request, we will not be adopting the suggestion. Your reference to decision-makers in this context could be taken to infer that our senior managers are affected by bias, which I am sure you did not intend.

2. Employment support and counselling for those facing redundancy

I am happy to be able to reassure you that you have not been given accurate information in relation to support provided. Our staff who are serving notice of redundancy have been offered a comprehensive package of support, which has included:

  • External outplacement support through Working Transitions, including:
    • Unlimited access to a Personal Career Manager
    • Three hours of individual coaching with an experienced career coach
    • Group workshop on job search
    • Unlimited access to an online career portal including CV builder app, job database, and company database
    • Range of online webinars to help develop practical job search skills
    • Employee Assistance Programme, available 24/7
  • Internal support including online resources, the People Team, Employee Assistance Programme, access to the CS redeployment network and other resources.

The service provided by Brook Street, to which you refer, was organised by one of our HR Managers to provide additional support, enabling those serving notice to meet with an employment agency to discuss the current job market and offer broad advice on application and CV writing from their perspective. As you can see from the above, it did not constitute the total package that was and remains on offer.

The reference to Costa Coffee again appears to have been somewhat misrepresented. As part of the support available, our HR Managers have offered to meet with staff serving notice on a regular basis, to catch up on issues and progress. Sometimes it is better to do that in an informal environment and a local coffee shop is not an uncommon place for meetings. Of course this would not have been a formal coaching or mentoring discussion as suggested, and in any event would not have taken place there unless the person concerned was content with that environment.

3. Mitigation

You will of course be aware that the obligation to mitigate the outcomes of any process extends only to considering reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, which we did in creating the additional role to which you refer (for an employee who is both BAME and disabled).

I therefore assume that in mentioning mitigation you are referring to the requirement that we put in place a robust, fair, and transparent process, which also included ensuring our best efforts in identifying any possible suitable alternative employment. As mentioned above, I am satisfied that we have done so. It is a matter of regret that we have had to make compulsory redundancies, however it would be wrong for us to put people into roles that they cannot fulfil, and of course, we cannot employ any individual on the basis of their ethnicity alone, which would be unlawful.

4. Senior BAME staff

As mentioned in my earlier letter, it is true to say that 84% of our staff report as white against 89% of civil service staff, and 19.75% report as disabled against a comparable statistic of 6.32% in the civil service.

As you have correctly stated, however, our equality objectives make it very clear that we do intend to increase the representation of ethnic minority and disabled staff at senior levels and to that end, as you know, we have set ourselves a challenging target. It is our keen hope that we will be able to work with you and your sister organisations to achieve this, as we would very much appreciate your help in identifying suitable applicants for roles and developing a pipeline.

At the same time it has been critical for us to make changes to the organisation to ensure that we have the right skills in place to deliver on our strategic objectives for the future, which we appreciate are important to you as we know we have shared aims and purposes. We have not yet managed to increase representation. However, we fully intend to do so in the ways that we have already described.

It is not, in fact, accurate to suggest that number of executive directors has doubled. In 13/14, 14/15, and 15/16 under the former Chief Executive the Commission employed three Executive Directors and two country directors which formed its executive team. Today, in addition to the Chief Executive, the Commission has in place three Executive Directors and has increased their responsibility to incorporate the country roles. It is of course a matter for the Commission and to determine the appropriate staffing structure to deliver on its remit.

As you will be aware, the decision in Essop and others v Home Office [2017] UKSC 27, which we supported and have welcomed as a correct statement of the law, does not affect the issue of justification. Our view is that any disproportionality in the equality impact assessment can be understood and justified in accordance with the narrative we have provided to you. We are quite clear, not only that we have acted in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 but also that we would not consider enforcement action again any organisation who carried out a similar change programme. This was one of the methods of scrutiny which the Board asked the Executive to adopt.

On a final note, I would like to add my thanks for your interest in the Commission and in recognising the important role that we play in changing the society in which we live.

It is my hope that we can come together constructively to reach our shared objectives, and we would very much appreciate any support and advice you are able to offer.

Yours sincerely

David Isaac

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