by Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Dyson
The University established an Equal Opportunities Committee last year to bring equal opportunities matters formally into the decision making structure, building on the work of the Equal Opportunities Network, which remains in place as a consultative body.
In its first year the Committee endorsed the University’s policy statement, and proposed a set of priorities related to employee development and promotion, selection and flexible working. This year the Committee has been developing an action plan which is outlined below. The Committee’s full draft report is now available for consultation prior to its consideration at the Equal Opportunities Network meeting on 14 May, and the Equal Opportunities Committee meeting on 22 May.
The University’s Equal Opportunities Policy states that:
“The University of Warwick, recognising the value of sustaining and advancing a safe and welcoming learning environment, strives to treat both employees and students with respect and dignity, treat them fairly with regards to all assessments, choices and procedures, and to give them encouragement to reach their full potential. Therefore the University strives to treat all its members on the basis of merit and ability alone and aims to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, political beliefs, religious beliefs or practices, disability, marital status, family circumstances, sexual orientation, spent criminal convictions, age or any other inappropriate ground.”
The Equal Opportunities Committee is proposing an Action Plan for implementing the policy, which in the first instance relates mainly to employment issues. Racial equality is a key component of equal opportunities and some non-employment issues (for instance, service delivery for students) are also covered within the Action Plan. Other non-employment issues will be considered by the Equal Opportunities Committee at a later date, although work is currently being undertaken on these too, for example, on the implication of the disability act for students and the curriculum.
There are four broad reasons for ensuring the implementation of the Equal Opportunities Policy: the belief in equal opportunities principles per se; the fit with other aspects of University strategy, such as the over-riding need to recruit and retain the best staff; increasing evidence that good practice in equal opportunities will play an active part in supporting the University’s teaching and research mission by improving staff commitment, retention and business effectiveness; and the increasing statutory obligations on the University stemming from recent and forthcoming equal opportunities legislation.
The University exhibits many instances of good practice with regard to equal opportunities. However the Committee found evidence of under-representation of some groups in certain categories of staff (in one category all 75 staff were white males), unevenness in the procedures and guidelines for selection and promotion (with detailed guidelines only for academic posts), gaps in the availability of developmental review and a reactive stance to flexible working practices complying only with basic statutory provision.
The full set of recommendations is as follows:
1.1 That the University adopts the Race Equality Policy as set out in Appendix B of the Action Plan.
2.1 That the Personnel Office carry out a series of focus group meetings on equal opportunities.
3.1 That recruitment and selection training be mandatory for heads of departments, chairs of selection panels or their equivalent.
3.2 That recruitment and selection procedures be produced for all categories of staff.
4.1 That promotion and appraisal procedures be produced for all categories of staff.
4.2 That all staff have opportunities for regular developmental review and appropriate training and education opportunities.
4.3 That training in promotion and appraisal procedures be mandatory for heads of departments, chairs of promotion panels or their equivalent.
5.1 That heads of departments and other line managers receive training and development in managing requests for flexible working to ensure the University adopts a positive approach, accommodating requests where operationally viable, and complies with legal obligations.
5.2 That flexible working policies are further developed, and heads of departments and line managers consider and report on their approach to flexible working.
The full report is available from Chris Twine in the Personnel Office and any observations can be sent to him or any member of the Committee. The full membersip list can be found in the University Calendar (see http://www.warwick.ac.uk/info/calendar).
The next meeting of the Equal Opportunities Network will be held on Tuesday 14 May 2002, at 12.30pm in the Council Chamber, Senate House. The Network meeting is open to all members of staff, and provides an opportunity for your voice to be heard on a range of Equal Opportunities issues. Among the items to discuss will be the University’s Equal Opportunities Action Plan and membership of national equality campaigns. A sandwich lunch will be provided. Anyone wishing to attend should contact Chris Twine, Personnel C.Twine@warwick.ac.uk for copies of the agenda and papers.