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Diversity best practice? Ask the civil service!


Cabinet OfficeTwo pieces of independent research published today show that the Civil Service is a leading UK employer in its drive to increase the diversity of its workforce and ensure equality.

This research examines staff perceptions of working in the Civil Service and their views on the equality of performance appraisals. Commissioned by the Civil Service working closely with the Council of Civil Service Unions (CCSU), the research is being used to assess progress and identify where further action is needed.

It shows that the Civil Service scores above average on questions about fairness and equality when compared with other public, private and voluntary sector employers.

It also helps to explain possible underlying causes for small but statistically significant differences in performance marks.

Sir Richard Wilson, Head of the Home Civil Service, today emphasised the importance of improving diversity:

“This is groundbreaking research. No other employer has carried out an exercise quite like this. It shows that the Civil Service Reform Programme is making real progress on diversity and is outscoring other public and private sector organisations on staff perceptions of fairness and equality. It is important to know where we are already doing well, but equally, we need to know where to focus our future efforts.

“Using the findings of this research, 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.

“We are determined to keep the momentum going. This latest research is just one strand in our commitment to being an organisation which values and celebrates diversity at every level and so, in turn, can provide a better service to the public.”

The diversity survey which looked at staff perception of the Civil Service as an equal opportunities employer was carried out by ORC International. Some of the key findings include:

  • 71% of civil servants agree that their organisation is an equal opportunities employer (the average is 67% in other organisations);
  • 60% of staff feel they are treated with fairness and respect (52% of employees across other organisations) however only 34% agree that employees are valued for what they can offer their organisation;
  • 60% of staff agree that their organisation respects individual differences;
  • 61% feel they can balance their home and working lives without hindering their career in comparison to the 19% who feel they cannot.
However there are clear messages that staff who work alternative patterns are more likely to feel that it hinders their career development; and that
  • there are concerns amongst under-represented groups about fairness and equity:
  • disabled staff are less satisfied than others in relation to almost all issues addressed by the survey.
  • 17% of disabled staff feel they have been treated unfairly as a result of their disability;
  • 21% of minority ethnic staff believe they have been treated unfairly as a result of their race; and
  • 20% of primary carers believe they have been treated unfairly as a result of their caring responsibilities.

The second piece of research looks at factors affecting performance marks across the service and was carried out by Capita and the Institute of Employment Studies. Some 180,000 personal records were analysed and 500 people interviewed. The key findings are that:
  • there were small but statistically significant differences between performance marks in relation to gender, ethnicity and disability, although women do better than men;
  • performance review systems are not the underlying cause of the differences in performance marks. The main issues were how people were managed, valued and developed; and
  • in some cases, negative attitudes and beliefs might have influenced both actual performance and marks.

The Civil Service is working in partnership with the Unions and is developing a framework for action to take forward the findings of the research across the Service in conjunction with departments and agencies.

Chair of the CCSU, Paul Noon commented:

“The Civil Service trade unions welcome the publication of the report of this jointly commissioned research and the results of the diversity survey. It is a clear demonstration of both the importance we attach to this issue and our wish to work on the research findings in the spirit of partnership agreement.

“We all recognise that it will not be easy and we are committed to tackling urgently the issues highlighted by the research. Some of the steps which need to be taken will be readily agreed by all parties. Others may prove to be more difficult but this will not divert us from our mutual aims of valuing diversity, dealing with inequality and achieving equal opportunity for all Civil Servants.”

Some of the improvement measures which are being identified include:

  • independent quality assurance of performance appraisal systems (eg. DTLR already has plans to use independent consultants to check 25% of appraisal reports);
  • improved management capability (eg. Inland Revenue are introducing a diversity pack for managers which includes team exercises to improve diversity awareness and understanding);
  • equality proofing of systems and procedures ( eg. DTLR is using independent consultants and staff from under-represented groups to comment on its new appraisal system); and
  • increased focus on bringing on talent (eg. Cabinet Office is this year awarding 25 Disability Bursaries towards training, development and mentoring).

One Response

  1. Copy of Diversity Pack for Managers
    We are currently looking at implementing a line manager toolkit pertaining to Diversity. It mentions in the article that the inland revenue have created a diversity pack for managers.

    Has anyone created something similar that they would be prepared to share?


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