Report of the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development.
The Forum received a report of the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development, which provided a detailed breakdown of the Council’s workforce from 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021, as set out at appendix A to the report. The report contained a snapshot of the current workforce, broken down into each of the protected characteristics where data was available, providing an overview of the diversity profile of the Council’s workforce and how this compared with the population of Harrow and the London average.
The report stated that the data would help inform the Council’s workforce planning and decision-making processes in relation to the levelling up of the Council’s offer for under-represented groups. It was intended that the report would help shape the development of workforce initiatives to further improve the representation of minority groups within the Council, and to ensure more inclusive processes and practices across the organisation.
An officer introduced the report and made a presentation which is attached as an appendix to these minutes for reference purposes. She reported as follows:
· the Annual Workforce Equality Report 2020-21 provided a data driven snapshot of the Council’s current workforce, which was made up of 2,071 full time and part time staff (excluding school staff) and had been compared to the populations of Harrow and London. The workforce had been broken down into the following groups where data was held - age, disability, race, sex, religion, LGBTQIA+, maternity;
· a detailed analysis of protected groups had shown the interconnected nature of social categorisation, for example, disability and sex, race and sex, age and pay band;
· the report highlighted a number of issues around particular groups, and further conclusions would be drawn to inform the next phase, which would form part of the Council’s internal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy;
· the report would help shape the development of workforce initiatives to further improve the representation of minority groups within the Council, to ensure more inclusive processes and practices across the organisation.
The officer extracted the key points from each of the presentation slides relating to Age, Disability, Race, Race and Sex, Sex, Religion, LGBT QIA+, Maternity and Recruitment, details of which are set out in the appendix to the minutes. In relation to the presentation slide on Recruitment, the officer informed the Forum that, currently, no information was available on the jobs that women had been successful in securing under the gender section.
The Forum was advised of the following emerging recommendations which needed to be taken forward by the Council:
· create safe spaces for staff to share their personal and confidential data in order to increase the completion rate to allow the Council to better analyse the Annual Workforce Equality Report in the future;
· consider how the Council monitored agency staff and senior interim staff who made up a significant part of the workforce;
· monitor the impact of Diversity Talent Programmes which were launched in 2021 to identify progression of female and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff. The officer stressed that the Talent Programmes were open to all staff;
· undertake a deep dive of the Council’s current recruitment practices with a view to improving the rate from application to shortlisting and appointment, including the challenges faced by applicants, for example those under the age of 24 years.
A couple of the Members asked questions which were responded to by the officer and the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development as follows:
1. Why was there no analysis or commentary in respect of marriage and civil partnerships, including on the protected characteristic, caste? The officer replied that no analysis was available, but she welcomed this question and undertook to discuss it with the Corporate Strategy Board. In terms of the query relating to the breakdown of certain staff in terms of caste, she undertook to explore this in the next iteration of the report.
2. Had the Council’s Occupational Health provider been involved in the issue of the disability status which remained low for the Council when compared to other London boroughs? The Director informed the Forum that the Council relied on data gauged from the information provided by staff - self-defined disability or long-term health condition in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. The approach taken by the Council was deemed to be in line with best practice.
3. What procedures were used to capture the data in relation to maternity and religion? The Director stated that the data covered the period 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021 and was limiting in that it relied on the information provided by staff. However, the staff survey and the pulse survey also asked for such information. She added that, as part of the People Strategy and the Race Equality Action Plan, the Council was intending to promote staff awareness on the importance of sharing and making such diversity information available.
4. Were staff aware that their personal information would be treated in a confidential manner? The Director assured that confidentiality was retained. However, the issue was about the level of confidence that staff had in the Council on this key issue. Of significance was the data available on disability and LGBT status which was underreported. She acknowledged that emphasis on the privacy aspect needed to be highlighted and that staff need assurance that their personal data would not be divulged and that sharing their diversity status would not undermine their employment or career progression.
5. The report was driven by data. Did the Council have an understanding of why when 69% of applicants were from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, only 28% were successful appointments? Did the Council know what actions were required to rectify this situation? The Director replied that this was an area that had been captured as an emerging recommendation and she acknowledged that the differences were stark as outlined in slide 11 of the presentation attached to the minutes. A priority was to carry out a deep dive of the Council’s current recruitment practices with a view to improving the rate from application to shortlisting and appointment stages. This exercise might help address this issue, including the challenges faced by applicants, for example those under the age of 24 years.
The Director also highlighted the importance of having a diverse panel when shortlisting and appointing staff in order to improve the success rate of applicants from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background. However, a key issue that needed to be addressed was why of the 69% job applications from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background only 22% were shortlisted for interview. It was important to understand the barriers from the application to the shortlisting stage and whether or not the applications received from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background were incomplete. Once the barriers had been identified, interventions and measures could be put in place.
RESOLVED: That the report be noted.