Equality Analysis (Impact Assessment)

Equality Analysis: guidance for staff

An Equality Analysis (EqA) uses evidence and informed judgement to evaluate if a policy is likely to have a discriminatory impact on people from protected groups when implemented. For the purpose of EqA, the use of the term ‘policy’ refers to the full range of functions, procedures, activities and decisions for which the University is responsible. This includes both current and new policies, guidelines, codes of practice and regulations, as well as customary ways of doing things and practices which may not be written down but are key to our activities, for example, the arrangements for an open day. Bristol has a legal duty to consider equality in policy decision-making to prevent discrimination and to promote diversity and inclusivity for all groups of people.

The Equality Act 2010 established the Public Sector Equality Duty requiring the University to have due regard to the following when exercising our functions:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act.
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
  • Foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it.

These are often referred to as the three aims of the general equality duty and apply to functions such as policy decisions, budgetary decisions, service provision, individual decisions, employing staff, admitting students and procurement of goods or services. For the purposes of EqA, the protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race/ethnicity, religion or belief, sex/gender and sexual orientation[1].

Understanding

Understanding the effect of our policies and decisions on people with different protected characteristics is an important part of complying with the equality duty, enabling us to develop practical courses of action to advance equality and mitigate negative consequences before a proposed policy is adopted or a decision is made. The EqA requires us to carefully consider the impact of our policy on all relevant groups, providing an opportunity for us to ensure that our policy supports our strategic ambitions to create a fully inclusive culture for all members of our staff and student communities.

In practice, this means that equality considerations must be an integral part of our policy development and decision-making processes and integrated into all relevant templates/reports as appropriate. Failure to undertake an EqA could constitute a breach of the general equality duty, which could give rise to judicial review where no or inadequate analysis has taken place.

An evidence-based approach should be adopted, involving consultation with relevant protected groups and stakeholders where appropriate. The individual/Team holding responsibility for the policy is ultimately responsible for ensuring that an EqA is undertaken as an integral part of any policy development or review, seeking advice from the EDI Team where appropriate. When undertaking an EqA, the following areas should be considered:

Equality relevance

Most policies will require an EqA; however this may not be required where the policy has no relevance to equality. High relevance policies will have significant impact on people – such as student admissions policies, staff recruitment policies and estates policies. Low relevance policies may include technical policies.

Positive/adverse impact

If the policy is equality relevant, then consider any positive or negative impact using evidence as appropriate.

Positive impacts of the policy

  • Who benefits from the policy?
  • What aspects of the policy relate to equality?
  • Does the policy miss potential opportunities to promote equality? Could it help to achieve Bristol’s strategic aims in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion?
  • Does the policy include lawful positive action or other methods to address inequality?

Positive Action i.e. proactively encouraging people is allowed under the Equality Act where members of protected groups are underrepresented within the workforce or student body. These are lawful measures, such as encouraging job applications from different groups and engaging in outreach work, designed to redress imbalances, counteract the effects of past discrimination and to ensure that people from previously excluded groups can compete on equal terms.

Adverse impacts of the policy

  • Is there evidence of higher or lower participation or uptake by different groups? Consider unintended consequences or barriers that might prevent participation for some groups.
  • Is the policy likely to affect relations between groups - is it seen as favouring a particular group or denying another?
  • Could part of the policy disadvantage or unlawfully discriminate against any particular group including failures to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people?
  • Could the policy have a negative impact on achieving Bristol’s strategic aims in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion?

Note that a policy/decision may still proceed after potential for adverse impact has been identified; in this instance, steps must be identified and taken to mitigate this. In such cases, advice from the EDI Team should be sought.

Make your decision

The results of the EqA may lead you to take one of the following courses of action:

Continue the policy

Your analysis demonstrates that the policy shows no potential for discrimination and that you have taken a proportionate approach to advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between people with different protected characteristics. You should document the reasons for this conclusion and the information you used to make this decision.

Justify and continue the policy

Ultimately, there may be other factors (such as other policy aims or financial constraints) which make it reasonable for you to decide to adopt the policy despite its adverse equality impact. You can choose this option where your policy does not unlawfully discriminate, or where any potential discrimination is indirect and can be objectively justified. You need to take into account the possibility that your decision could be challenged, and consider whether you would be able to satisfy a court that you had due regard to the aims of the general equality duty when you reached your decision. It is particularly important that you document the reasons for your decision and the evidence that supported these reasons, as well as consider options to mitigate any adverse impact. In such cases, advice from the EDI Team should be sought.

Change the policy

Take steps to remove barriers or better advance equality, ensuring that the policy does not adversely affect certain groups of people, or miss opportunities to affect them positively. Document the reasons for the steps you are adopting and the information you used to make this decision.

Stop the policy

If there are adverse effects which cannot be justified or mitigated you may wish to consider stopping the policy altogether.

Document your findings

If you are challenged, it will be difficult to demonstrate compliance without an audit trail of how you made your decisions and what information you considered. Reports, results of any consultation disaggregated by protected group, and minutes of committee meetings where equality-related issues are identified and discussed should suffice.

Sources of evidence and further information

As stated previously, EqA is an evidence-based process and both quantitative and qualitative information can be used to inform decisions - essentially the process analyses existing information and feedback from key groups to consider whether a policy could have a positive or negative impact on equality. Some examples of evidence that is available are listed below, but the policy owner will be best placed to consider further evidence – from internal and external sources – as appropriate and the need for any targeted consultation.

Internal

Student Management Information: www.bristol.ac.uk/ssio/

Staff Management Information: www.bristol.ac.uk/hr/systems/managementinfoandstats.html

Student Survey results: www.bristol.ac.uk/academic-quality/studentsurveys/

Staff Survey results: www.bristol.ac.uk/academic-quality/studentsurveys/

Annual Equality Monitoring Reports: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/equalityanddiversity/annualreports/

Staff Network Groups: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/directory/equality/staff-networks/

External

Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance Meeting the Equality Duty in Policy and Decision-Making:

www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/meeting-equality-duty-policy-and-decision-making-england-and-non-devolved

Equality Challenge Unit statistical reports provide equality data on staff and students within UK higher education:

www.ecu.ac.uk/guidance-resources/using-data-and-evidence/statistics-report/


[1]Marriage and civil partnership status is covered for the first aim of the duty only (the requirement to eliminate unlawful discrimination) and only with respect to employment and not education.

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