Agenda item

Annual Staff Equalities Report


The Head of HR and OD presented the report to the Committee in the absence of the HR Officer.


Councillor Dumont said he was pleased to see plans to acquire software which could facilitate name-blind recruitment. He asked whether staff relied on the Council’s mental first aiders and knew how to access this support, which was of increased importance. He was concerned that indicators of staff struggling may be missed when working remotely.


The Head of HR and OD said that engagement with mental health first aiders had been better when staff were working from the office, although staff did know who the first aiders were, and there was a diverse range of staff engaged in delivery of the scheme. There had been efforts to remind staff of groups and sessions to support their well-being.


The Infrastructure Contributions and Spend Manager said that it was very useful to have the mental first aiders and that lots of staff used the buddy system which was available. As UNISON Branch Secretary, she also reminded Members of the well-being support offered by the union.


The Head of HR and OD said that managers had been given guidance on how to support their team remotely, such as arranging regular video calls so that they could gauge their well-being more effectively than via a telephone call or email.


Councillor Alder asked about the variety of religions that were practised by staff across the Council and queried whether their needs were adequately supported, such as by allowing time and a space in which to pray.


The Head of HR and OD said there was a reflection room at Wallfields and the Council operated a flexi-time scheme which could be utilised to make time for prayer.


Councillors Newton and Dumont asked about the Council’s monitoring of protected characteristics amongst its staff and how this information was used.


The Head of HR and OD said the Council strongly encouraged staff to declare this information as the Council was duty-bound to monitor this under the Equality Act. The purpose was not to monitor specific individuals, but to build an overall picture of the workforce, although unavoidably some staff were wary of providing this information. Missing information was unhelpful to HR as it meant there was potential for them to create initiatives to increase engagement with certain minority groups when recruiting, whilst there may already be current staff members who belonged to this group, unbeknownst to HR. The Head of HR and OD added that further equalities information would be available on residents in future as Hertfordshire County Council had recently employed an Equalities Officer who would work with East Herts.


The Chairman and Councillor Ruffles said that they were pleased to see the move towards implementing unconscious bias training and name-blind recruitment.


The Head of HR and OD thanked Claire Kirby, Human Resources Officer for her work in producing the report. HR were investing in an online product to use during recruitment which would make name-blind recruitment possible.


The Chairman asked whether spot checking performance development reviews (PDR) had become more difficult when working remotely.


The Head of HR and OD said that a number of staff had started the PDR process before they began working from home, and this process had often been continued via video calls, as had appraisals and one-to-one meetings with managers. Spot checking had been more difficult but engagement with these processes had increased again after an initial reduction.


It was moved by Councillor Ruffles and seconded by Councillor Dumont that the recommendations, as detailed, be approved. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, this motion was declared CARRIED.


RESOLVED – that (A) the report be noted;


(B) that the recommendations set out in the 2020/21 action plan be approved; and


(C) that the proposal for the Annual Equalities report for 2020-2021 to be reported to the July 2021 meeting of the Committee, be approved.


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