Equality & Diversity Strategy

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1 Equality & Diversity Strategy Last updated March 2014

2 1 Statement of commitment Ombudsman Services is committed to equality of opportunity and respect for diversity. As an equal opportunities employer, we recognise that equality and diversity are positive attributes and understand and welcome the difference that an open and diverse culture brings. We provide a free independent Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme and help all members of the community to resolve their complaints. We are committed to continually reviewing and improving how we provide our processes to ensure that we provide a service that meets the needs of our service users and is accessible to all. We are also fully committed to helping our staff to fulfil their potential by providing a comprehensive learning and development programme and opportunities for career development. We have a tradition within Ombudsman Services of supporting our local community and we are proud of our affiliation with the chosen charity of the year which is voted for by all employees. We have set a number of key equality and diversity objectives that underpin this strategy and our activity will be measured against these. They are; to foster an inclusive environment for all our staff; to ensure our services are accessible to all; to implement our change programme fairly and transparently; and; to ensure the learning from our complaints handling is fed back to the businesses we deal with. This strategy sets out our commitment to equality and diversity, together with the approach we propose to adopt; finally, it identifies some actions that we will be carrying out over the next 12 months. Chair of the Board Dame Janet Finch Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith 2

3 2 The Equality Act 2010 The Equality Act 2010 brings together all of the different equality legislation under the umbrella of one Act. The Act highlights the protected characteristics that should be taken into account when promoting equality and diversity. The protected characteristics are: Age Disability Gender reassignment Marriage and civil partnership Pregnancy and maternity Race Religion or belief Sex Sexual orientation More information on the Equality Act 2010 can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website: 3 Corporate Aim, Values and Behaviours Our corporate strategy sets the vision, aims and objectives of the organisation. One of our strategic aims is: To be a socially conscious, not-for-profit organisation that is accessible to all To help us deliver our corporate strategy we have developed a set of values and behaviours that everyone within the company is signed up to. They are: Passion: Pride, ownership and high standards Understanding: Informed, prepared and involved Togetherness: Supportive, helpful and positive 3

4 4 Our commitment as an employer We take our responsibility as an employer seriously and recognise the value, skills and diversity that our staff bring to the company. Our staff are an asset and we are committed to devoting time and resource to ensure we maintain a vibrant working environment and opportunities for all. Furthermore, we recognise the importance of having strong leadership to nurture a positive culture throughout the organisation. In 2013, we were re-accredited with the Investors in People award. This demonstrates that our practices, processes, training plans, engagement of and commitment to staff is of a high standard. We see this as a starting point rather than the end of a journey and we strive to build on this positive platform. We view engagement with our staff as essential. We will work with our staff and listen to their views. Our staff developed our values and behaviours, of which an element was to identify unacceptable behaviours when dealing with their colleagues and our service users. We will continue to undertake the staff survey and respond in a timely and positive manner to the feedback that it provides. As part of our staff engagement, we will also utilise forums such as the staff consultation group. We have undertaken an equality monitoring survey for all members of staff to complete. This will be used to help us to further understand the make-up of the workforce and we will endeavour to have a workforce that is both a reflection of the local community within which we work and of the people who use our service. We have a number of policies in place that recognise the changing nature of the modern work place, such as dignity at work, equal opportunities disability policy, flexible working and home working. These and other policies are designed to meet the needs of our staff, help to foster a positive working environment and make Ombudsman Services an employer of choice. All of our human resources polices are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they are up to date, relevant and meet the needs of our employees. 4.1 Recruitment We are committed to attracting and recruiting high calibre applicants at all levels from a wide pool and a broad range of backgrounds. We take pride in our corporate social responsibility and look to support local unemployed people back to work. We have undertaken targeted recruitment 4

5 activities to encourage those not in education, employment or training (NEET) and are constantly looking at new initiatives such as apprenticeships. We will always make reasonable adjustments to ensure that applicants with a disability are not disadvantaged in any way. 4.2 Learning and Development We have a comprehensive training plan for our staff to ensure that they have the right skills and knowledge they require to undertake their role, as we recognise that the development of our staff and the nurturing of talent are vital to the success of the company. We have set out a development programme and associated tailored training so that we provide our staff with a career roadmap, enabling them to further develop their skills and obtain promotion within the company. We provide training to staff to enable them to understand equality and diversity issues that may arise during their working day and provide them with knowledge on the relevant rights and responsibilities in law. This includes bespoke training on handling difficult calls, disability awareness and supporting our vulnerable customers through signposting to other support services. All members of staff go through an appraisal process on an ongoing basis with a personal development review taking place annually. This provides managers and staff the opportunity to discuss options for training, along with development opportunities. We regularly review our training provision to ensure that it is appropriate and up to date with new legislation and utilises new techniques and technologies, such as e-learning and remote learning. 5 Our commitment as a service provider We are committed to providing a service that that is accessible to all. Our service delivers fair outcomes for all irrespective of their Age, Disability, Race, Religion or belief, Sex or Sexual orientation and we do not knowingly unfairly disadvantage or discriminate any group or individual. We constantly review how we provide our service to help us identify any barriers that could prevent any potential customers from accessing our services or disadvantage anyone who already uses our service. 5

6 We have facilities in place for those who have sight, hearing or speech difficulties. We have TypeTalk and offer a translation service for those service users who first language is not be English and allow for third party representation for service users with learning difficulties. We are constantly seeking the views of our service users via our quarterly customer satisfaction survey and where appropriate will make adjustments to our processes. We are open to external assessment of our services and utilise mystery shoppers to provide a user s perspective on the ease of use of our service. We will also engage with community interest groups to seek their views on current practice and future improvements. We are committed to raising the awareness of Ombudsman Services. We are working with regulators and our participating companies to ensure that complainants know how to access the service. In addition, we will also be developing a profile of our service users and using this information to develop a tailored targeted awareness campaign within those communities where take up of our service is low. We will ensure that any external providers or consultants that provide a service on our behalf understand their responsibility to equality and diversity and adhere to our equality and diversity strategy. 6 Making it happen We have developed an action plan that sets out the key activity that we will undertake over the next 12 months. The action plan is appended to this strategy. This is not the full extent of the actions that we will be delivering, as other supporting documents contain additional activity, but this provides an indication of our key activity. A set of performance measures and targets will also be developed over the next 12 months and these will used to assess progress made in meeting our equality and diversity objectives. Progress against the action plan will be reported to the Board on a regular basis and a full review of the action plan will be undertaken on an annual basis. 7 Responsibility The Board of Ombudsman Services is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Equality and Diversity strategy. 6

7 It is the responsibility of the Chief Executive to ensure that Ombudsman Services meets all of its statutory obligations with regards to Equality and Diversity. We expect all members of staff and anyone who works on behalf of Ombudsman Services to help us in upholding the commitment to the principles of this strategy. 8 How to complain If you are an employee Any employee who has a concern regarding the application of this strategy should raise this through the Ombudsman Services grievance policy. If the concern is about harassment, the procedure contained within the harassment policy should be followed. If you are a service user Any service user who is unhappy with the application of this strategy or with the level of service provided by Ombudsman Services should make a complaint through our service complaints process. This can be done by calling Further information on our complaints process is also available on our website: 9 Obtaining copies of the strategy To obtain a copy of this strategy, including in an alternative format such as large print, audio, Braille or a different language, please contact us at 7

8 Action Plan Corporate Action Lead Milestone Produce an annual update for the Board on our performance Governance Manager Quarter against the delivery of the strategy and action plan Undertake a review of our website to ensure that it is user friendly and accessible to all Undertake a review of our communications methods to ensure that they are appropriate to meet the needs of all service users Communications and IT Communications Manager Quarter Quarter Undertake targeted awareness raising activity in geographical locations and/or with groups where under-representation exists Communications Manager Quarter Develop an impact assessment to be used for policy and process development and for the implementation of new business Governance Manager Quarter Continue to develop networks to share and develop best practice within the industry Executive 8

9 Action Lead Milestone Continue to develop links with local and national groups to improve awareness of Ombudsman Services and to test our processes, including the Business Disability Forum Executive Continue to carry out the customer satisfaction survey and develop and implement an action plan Executive Develop and implement staff satisfaction survey action plan Executive Review all policies to ensure they are aligned to the Equality and Diversity strategy Executive 9

10 Action Plan Human Resources, Recruitment and Learning and Development Action Lead Milestone Identify Equality champions across the organisation HR Manager Quarter Undertake a review of the training plan to ensure all relevant Equality and Diversity legislation is covered Extend the remit of the Staff Consultation Group (or sub group) to promote and address equality issues L and D Manager Quarter HR Manager Quarter Obtain Positive about Disability accreditation HR Manager Quarter Review supporting information provided to front-line staff and develop an Equality & Diversity resource on the intranet L and D Manager Quarter Identify and assess the feasibility of introducing e-learning for Equality & Diversity L and D Manager Quarter Undertake a workforce equality monitoring survey HR Manager Quarter Review all HR policies to ensure they meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 Director of HR 10

11 Action Lead Milestone Review our recruitment policy and processes to ensure that they Resourcing Manager Quarter are fair and open to all Continue to target recruitment from under-represented groups including those that are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) Resourcing Manager Implement the actions from the I.I.P re-accreditation process Director of HR Continue to support and enable all members of staff to develop and aspire to obtain promotion within the company Director of HR 11

12 Action Plan Service Delivery Action Lead Milestone Commission an external body to undertake a mystery shopper Director of Dispute Quarter exercise to review the service Resolution Achieve accreditation for the British Standards Institute (BSI) BS 18477: inclusive service provision Implement the improvement plan from the Consumer Futures review on vulnerable consumers Head of Operational Support Head of Operational Support Quarter Develop systems for gathering, monitoring and analysing equality data of service users at all stages of the complaints process Head of Operations Quarter Collate and monitor equality data on service users who complain about our service Head of Operational Support Quarter Introduce a British Sign Language interpretation service and promote the service Head of Operations Quarter Continue to review our service provision to ensure that it is accessible to all and meets the needs of service users Head of Operations 12

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