Case studies - EEPs and Employers
This section aims to highlight some of the work undertaken by a number of employers to develop Employment Equality Plans, with the support of the Equality Commission. It contains four case studies of organisations from the public and private sectors that have developed and are implementing such Plans. It is intended that these case studies will provide some initial guidance to other organisations that are considering the development of their own Plans. The case study organizations include:
- Botanic Inns Ltd
- Green Park Healthcare Trust
- Interface Europe Ltd
- Southern Health & Social Services Area Board
- Women in Local Councils
An Employment Equality Plan is a voluntary initiative which may be developed by an employer to assist them to identify, prioritise and plan equality work within their organisation. The Plan will therefore result in action areas that are specific to each employer, and will provide a structure, whereby equality work may be carried out in a systematic and rational manner, taking into account legislative changes and business priorities.
The planning process allows employers to assess their employment plicies against the requirements of current equality legislation and Codes of Practice across the full range of equality areas. When we initiated our work with employers on Employment Equality Plans in 2004, we wanted to ensure that they could be adapted by employers to meet their specific equality needs. It was important for example, for some organisations to have an equality model that is compatible with their priorities with regards preformance management and excelence frameworks.
However, we also recognise that an Employment Equality Plan must have the flexibility to be used by medium and smaller sized employers which, in many cases have no dedicated equality or human resoruce function. It was also essential that the model could be used by employers in both the public and private sectors.
Progress to date
Over the last few years Commission staff have worked successfully with over 100 employers, both large and small; from the private and public sectors, to develop Employment Equality Plan initiatives.
It is the employers that determine the level of assistance that they require from the Commission and the extent of their Plan. Some employers for example use their Plan to benchmark their practices against legislative requirements, whilst others aim beyond this to best practice.
Our experience to date with these employers has shown us that Employment Equality Plans:
- Help employers to ensure that their employment policies meet the requirements of current equality legislation;
- Assist employers in preparing for changes to equality legislation; Facilitate employers in promoting best practice;
- Are adopted by organisations and companies that want to appeal to a wide customer base;
- Assist employers to access a full range of specialist skills, knowledge, guidance and training from the Equality Commission.
If you want to find out further information to assist your organisation develop such a plan, please contact Employment Development. We will be pleased to assist you.
Botanic Inns Ltd
By Cathy Donnelly, Head of Human Resources
Botanic Inns Ltd was established in 1991. It currently has 13 outlets with 520 employees across Belfast. The Company´s vision is to be the number one provider of the P:LEISURE experience in our world’. Botanic Inns Ltd´s Employment Equality Plan runs from 2005-2008 and focuses on the equality categories of gender, disability, age, religious belief and political opinion.
The key role of the Company’s Employment Equality Plan is that it provides us with access to the experts at the Equality Commission, ensures we meet legislative requirements and encourages us to go beyond the legislation and promote best practice.
The Company believes that its equality and diversity strategy has played a central role in terms of our successful business performance. We enjoy relatively low labour turnover for the sector, high rates of employee satisfaction and a relatively low level of staff absenteeism. All of this we believe is positively influenced by our Employment Equality Plan work.
As a best practice employer, Botanic Inns is an Age Positive Employer Champion and has won Opportunity Now Awards in relation to age. It has also been very highly placed in both the ´Sunday Times Top 100 Companies´ and ´Financial Times Top 50 Workplaces´ awards.
We are committed to developing our relationship with the Equality Commission and proceeding with the successful implementation of our Employment Equality Plan.
Green Park Healthcare Trust
By Elaine Williamson, Senior Human Resources Advisor
Green Park Healthcare Trust aims to provide high quality, cost effective healthcare through the provision of regional and local specialised services to patients. It specialises in the areas of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation and employs 1400 employees across seven sites.
The Trust´s Employment Equality Plan builds on the recognition of its staff as key to its success and complements the recent award of gold status in the European Foundation for Quality Management Steps to Excellence.
The Trust commenced the development of the Equality Plan during 2004. The Plan has enabled the Trust to equality proof employment policies, procedures and practices and has provided a framework to ensure that practices meet legislative requirements and also promote best practice. The Employment Equality Plan has been a valuable tool for the organisation. It has enabled us to assess our current and future focused us on the areas we would like to develop further. As part of the process we systematically assessed our employment policies against a series of equality indicators developed by the Equality Commission. We have enhanced our existing Equal Opportunities Policy to include a statement on Diversity and our Harassment Policy to include a statement on Dignity in the Workplace. In addition to this we have developed a quarterly Equal Opportunties Newsletter for all staff which keeps them up to date on topical issues and developments.
The Trust is a member of the Employers Forum on Disability and in terms of future developments we will be focusing on Disability-related issues and taking forward our Disdability Action Plan.
Interface Europe Ltd
By Barry Higgins, UK Head of Human Resources
Interface Europe is part of Interface Inc, a worldwide leader in the production of environmentally-responsible modular floor coverings and other textiles. The company turns over $1.2 billion annually and is committed to giving the marketplace a wide range of choices for specifically earth-friendly and certified environmentally preferable products.
Interface Europe Ltd is committed to the concept of corporate and social responsbility, environmentalism and sustainability. Over the last ten years Interface has gone through a comprehensive transformation process aimed at becoming the first environmentally sustainable company by 2020. We give active consideration to, and actively promote social responsibility and ecological sustainability both now and for the future. Our commitment to these concepts is expressed in our corporate values and integrated within our bsuiness planning processes. It is this ethical commitment that led the Company to work with the Commission to develop its Employment Equality Plan in 2004.
In the mid-nineties the company published a vision statement that laid down the gauntlet to change itself into a new kind of industrial company. One that could, in time, rightfully claim to be trully sustainable as well as successful.
This vision is central to the spirit of the Company´s Employment Equality Plan work. In aiming at its goal to be an environmentally sustainable Company, Interface is committed to promoting the wellbeing of its employees and customers through its proactive approach to equality and diversity. We see Employment Plans as providing a structured approach to diversity management and would recommend that other companies consider developing an Employment Equality Plan.
Southern Health & Social Services Area Board
By Lynda Gordon, Head of the Equality Assurance Unit
The Equality Assurance a very necessary focus and impetus for the equality agenda by interpreting and directing the work of the partners in the Southern Board Area.
The role of the Unit is somewhat unique in that it has twinned the responsibilities for existing equality law with the duties under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 along with the Human Rights Act. We see these issues as intrinsically linked. Our work has enabled the Unit to build up a body of expertise along the full spectrum of the legislative provisions.
In recent times our work with the Equality Commission has been increasingly driven through the development of Employment Equality Plans and linked initiatives.
The Unit has always enjoyed close working relationships with the Equality Commission and we continue to work together to deliver best policy and practice, in our area. This has been evidenced recently in the hosting of a series of workshops on the ´Employment of Migrant Workers´ and ´Managing Disability in the Workplace´. I believe that these workshops provide an ideal opportunity for employers to come together, discuss common problems and to seek solutions with the support of the Commisssion.
The Equality Assurance Unit is already anticipating planned introduction of Age legislation in October 2006. Consequently we will work with the Commisssion and use our Employment Equality Plan strategy to anticipate many of the legislative changes and assist local Trusts in proofing their employment policies and practices.
We support the Commission´s endeavors to encourage employers to sign up to Employment Equality Plans and look forward to continued working with the Commission.
Local Government Gender Initiative
Women in Local Councils – Making a Difference
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is a partner in the Women in Local Councils initiative. The initiative aims to encourage the integration of men and women into non-traditional roles and ensure equality of opportunity in terms of access to all levels of employment, leadership, training and in relation to promotional opportunities. The initiative specifically wishes to address the under-representation of women at senior officer levels and as elected representatives.
The partner bodies in the development and implementation of this initiative include
- The Local Government Staff Commission
- The Equality Commission for NI
- Queens University Belfast
- NI Local Government Association
- Business in the Community
- National Association of Councillors
The Initiative features a series of events designed to attract women into councils as employers of choice, to encourage those already employed to apply for higher graded positions and to raise the profile of women in local politics.
A key feature of the Initiative is the appointment of Champions by the 26 district councils, by the five main political parties, the National Association of Councillors and the NI Local Government Association.
The Champions are committed to maximising the profile of the initiative and participation in the programme of events within their respective areas. They also assist in identifying and sharing examples of best practice and act as the main point of contact with the Women’s Development Steering Group.
Gender Action Plan
At an early stage in the Women in Local Councils initiative, all 26 district councils adopted the Declaration of Principles which committed elected members and officers to work towards the goal of gender equality.
As a further stage in the initiative, the Steering Group developed a Gender Action Plan, based on the Equality Commission’s Gender Employment Equality Plan model, to assist councils addressing the key issues in the Declaration.
The aims of the Action Plan are:
- to ensure that policies and practices meet legal requirements
- to promote best practice in gender equality
- to address gender under-representation and job segregation.
To achieve these aims, the Action Plan includes sections for elected members and for officers respectively. A separate action plan for political parties has also been developed.
Please click here to visit the website for further information and updates.