Employers and unions working together to promote equality and diversity

Engaging with employers about equality and diversity is very important. What can employers do?

What can employers do?

  • Recognise and support union learning reps (ULRs), giving them time to work across the whole workforce
  • Support a learning culture in the workplace
  • Ensure learning and training opportunities are flexible to enable access across all shifts and grades
  • Recognise learners’ achievements
  • Actively seek to support the most vulnerable
  • Consider incentivising engagement with learning
  • Look at the whole workforce plan with the union
  • Develop and improve learning agreements.

This is an extract from Breaking Through the Barriers: Equal access to learning for all (unionlearn 2012).

There are more equality and diversity guides for employers available via the unionlearn website.

What can ULRs do?

For ULRs, the Learning Agreement is the key to engaging employers. The unionlearn guide to Delivering better learning agreements includes model framework learning agreements incorporating wording to ensure that equality and diversity issues are addressed.

There is a lot of groundwork to do. Here are some tips on what ULRs can do to help:

  • Work with other reps from your union to help you in getting as many members from all backgrounds into learning as possible
  • Encourage employers and members to comply with the law
  • Persuade your employer that a diverse workforce which includes people from the full range of different groups is more likely to help make a successful business
  • Argue that a business or public body with a diverse workforce is likely to achieve a good reputation in the community. The business case for equality and diversity is about getting success in a wider market and finding staff from the widest possible backgrounds
  • Argue that making training and promotion opportunities available to all is the only way to ensure that all of the experience and talent in the workforce is utilised
  • Make the moral argument for equality and diversity. This is perhaps the most important lever for change. When you strip away everything else promoting equality and valuing diversity is simply the right thing to do for employers and employees
  • Ensure that learning agreements with employers reflect the needs of everyone in the workplace, adding specific wording to reflect this.

Equality reps

There is a nationwide network of equality reps in trade unions and a TUC Education course to train and support them in this very important role. Brendan Barber says, in the introduction to the course book:

"Equality reps can promote fairness in the workplace, firstly by raising the equality agenda among fellow workers and their own unions, secondly by encouraging employers to make equality and diversity part of the mainstream collective bargaining and thirdly by working with vulnerable workers and trying to ensure that every worker receives fair treatment irrespective of gender, race, disability, religion, age, gender reassignment or sexuality."

The relationship that equality reps have with other union reps and with local union branches is very important for them to be able to carry out their role. Contact your union to find out who they are and how to work together. Details of training for equality reps are listed in our courses.

Disability [email protected]

Disability Champions are trade union representatives with an interest in disability issues. They are extremely diverse and from a wide range of sectors. The common thread is a desire to see genuine equality for disabled people in the world of work.

Disability Champions have a number of roles including:

  • negotiating 'reasonable adjustments'
  • raising awareness of disability issues
  • conducting access audits of buildings, documents, policies etc.
  • liaising with external organisations and other Champions.

Disability [email protected] training course

The TUC Education course for Disability Champions can be arranged by your local TUC Education centre. Contact them or your Regional Education Officer for details. There is also an online version of the course.

The course covers: disability discrimination legislation and case law, understanding the social model of disability, government support for disabled learners and workers, auditing the workplace, and prepares participants for the role of Disability Champion.

Unionlearn Regional Equality Champions

You can contact the unionlearn equality champion for your region of England via the regional offices. Contact details for these are in the regional pages.