Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Should an Equality Impact Assessment be summer holiday reading?


UNISON’s Local Government Conference in Bournemouth in June unanimously agreed Emergency Motion 5, which stated that “Conference notes that proposals for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) were released on 31 May 2012. UNISON’s Equality Scheme includes an action plan which includes (within the Local Government Service Group section) Ref LG 12 which states that it is our target that "All future regulatory changes proposed to the LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme) are equality impact-assessed". Conference therefore calls for the publication of a full equality impact assessment of the LGPS 2014 Proposals prior to any ballot of members in the Local Government Service Group.”

UNISON’s interim guidance on how to use employers’ equality duties to protect jobs and conditions (http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/AA9891.pdf) makes the sound point (at section 5 on page 17) that principles established under the previous specific equality duties continue to apply now (in particular The duty is complied with before and at the time that a particular policy is under consideration and a decision is taken. A public authority cannot satisfy the duty by justifying a decision after it has been taken,” and “Consideration of the need to advance equality forms an integral part of the decision-making process. The duty must be exercised in such a way that it influences the final decision.”)

The duty to equality impact assess the Regulations which will introduce any new LGPS will fall upon the Government. The equality duties imposed upon local authorities will also be relevant to how they play their part in implementing any such Regulations. The Union does not have any legal duty to carry out an equality impact assessment.

We do, however, have a clear Conference decision that an equality impact assessment of the LGPS 2014 proposals should be published prior to any ballot of members, which opens in six days time.

The letter of the Conference decision can still be satisfied, but it is clearly contrary to the spirit of the Conference decision for such an important document to become available only at the eleventh hour. In common with many other activists I’m on leave now until after the ballot opens so, if I have a chance to read the Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals for our pension scheme it will have to be on the beach.

It’s an interesting contrast, for a branch activist, between the fairly relaxed approach being taken to the equality impact assessment in respect of this massive change involving the majority of our members when compared with the very vigorous approach taken by the national union to ensuring that equality impact assessments had been thoroughly considered well in advance of any member ballot on Single Status.

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