Equality audits for Whitehall

28 Jun 01
Whitehall departments are to introduce 'equality audits' of their staff appraisal systems to ensure that ethnic minority, disabled and female staff are being assessed fairly on their workplace performance.

29 June 2001

Independent scrutiny of the annual performance reviews, which all staff undergo, is being introduced to make sure managers are consistent and objective when completing so-called 'box markings' for staff.

It is intended to boost the civil service's drive to make its workforce more diverse, and reduce the risk of disabled and ethnic minority staff being marked down because of negative attitudes by assessors.

Managers will also be assessed on their ability to manage others as part of their appraisals, and diversity training will be increased.

Sir Richard Wilson, Cabinet secretary and head of the home civil service, outlined the programme of reform during the publication of research on equality and diversity within the service on June 26. He said the organisation would strive to ensure that all staff were employed and promoted on merit, and pledged to redouble efforts to drive through change.

'We have been working with every department and agency to develop new and innovative ways of ensuring fairness and equality for all, and making the best use of the diversity of talent we have in the service,' Wilson said.

A report examining staff performance reviews found 'statistically significant' differences in marks awarded, according to gender and ethnicity. It found that, although women received better performance marks than men, white staff received better marks than those from ethnic minorities.

But Wilson rejected suggestions that these findings highlighted deep-seated problems in civil service culture. 'This doesn't mean there is institutional racism within the service, but as an organisation this is something we must tackle,' he said.

In October 2000, 2.4% of senior civil servants were from ethnic minorities, up from 1.6% in 1998, while in the same period the percentage of ethnic minority staff recruited through the Fast Track scheme rose from 3% to 6%. The service aims to draw 3.2% of its senior managers from ethnic minorities by 2005.

In a second report examining staff attitudes to diversity, 60% said they were treated with fairness and respect, and the same percentage agreed that the service respected individual differences. But 17% of disabled employees and 21% of ethnic minority staff said they had been treated unfairly because of who they were.

Council of Civil Service Unions chair Paul Noon said the research showed employers and unions were taking the diversity agenda seriously. 'We are committed to tackling urgently the issues highlighted,' he added.


Did you enjoy this article?