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Friday 12 November 2021

Managing inclusive workplaces - how to promote equality and foster inclusion

By Alison Moore

MiP Summit 2021:  Anton Emmanuel, Lucille Thirlby, Chris Creegan and Helen Carr discuss MiP’s new guide to equality and diversity and the action managers can take to create inclusive workplaces in the NHS.

Summit 2021 equality panel screenshot

NHS organisations are to get “bespoke” data on the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, as part of a new race equality strategy for the NHS in England to be published next year, members at MiP’s annual Summit heard.

Outlining his plans at the union's online session on equality and diversity on 9 November, Professor Anton Emmanuel, said he had taken his job as  interim joint director for equality, diversion and inclusion at NHS England because he had been persuaded that “things could be done differently”.

“We've done the same thing for six years – we have shown data and provided training,” he explained. “We’re now trying to move to the idea that, rather than producing national datasets, every single organisation is going to get its data in a bespoke way.”

Evidence based strategy

The new data would provide more information on gender and workforce groups, he explained, as well as more a precise breakdown of ethnicity. The “monolithic lumping” of staff into white and BAME groups “did a disservice to many communities”, he said, including white groups such as travellers who also experienced discrimination. This would allow organisations to assess the different experiences of smaller groups, such as women of African origin who often had a different experience to men of the same background. 

Emmanuel, who leads NHS England’s work on the Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES), added: “Local data only means something if you can ally it to an evidence-based strategy.” The new WRES strategy, which he hoped would be published in the first half of 2022, would allow organisations to pinpoint areas which needed improvement and use evidence-based interventions to make changes, he explained.   

The WRES strategy would also be aligned with the work of the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission, with the information on organisations feeding into CQC inspections, for example, Emmanuel added.

A similar approach could be applied to the Workforce Disability Equality Standard, he said, and he planned to develop similar standards for areas such as sexual orientation and gender in the future. 

The gap between aspiration and implementation

The session also saw the launch of MiP’s new guide to equality and diversity, Creating an Inclusive Workplace, written by Chris Creegan. Introducing the guide, Creegan said: “Too often there is a gap between aspiration and implementation when it comes to equality and diversity. Strategies are really important but actually bespoke implementation at very local level is critical.”

He explained that the guide was deliberately short and aimed to signpost managers, MiP reps and members to resources and advice as well as stimulating formal and informal conversations and activity about equality issues. 

“Ultimately, inclusion is dependent on equal treatment, and the diversity of the NHS workforce underlines the real critical significance of building and sustaining a culture of inclusion…we have a fair way to travel in terms of making that a reality,” Creegan said. “The guide takes a brief look at what is happening in terms of equality diversity and inclusion across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – the different strategies and approaches that exist.” 

He stressed it was important to make sure that organisational commitments to inclusion are implemented and resources and gaps in implementation were challenged.

“Because MiP represents managers it’s in a really unique position in terms of having an ear to both the top and bottom of the organisation,” he said. "[Members] are able to work with senior leaders across the NHS to provide implementation and resources and change. Whatever capacity you’re acting in as MiP members you have the opportunity to be champions for inclusion in the workplace every day – as advocates, allies and role models.”

What makes a good manager?

The panel also discussed the qualities that make a good manager. Lucille Thirlby, assistant general secretary of the FDA, one of MiP’s two parent unions, listed responsiveness, communication, inspiration and inclusivity as the key attributes. But she stressed that inclusivity meant “more than just what people said or did” – it was also about how they used data to drive change, and in both the NHS and the civil service there had been a persistent issue with organisations getting data on the issues but failing to implement change.

Thirlby also stressed the need to for managers to be aware of their own biases and talked about how, as someone who was not religious, she had come to respect other people’s religious views.

Chairing the discussion, Helen Carr, MiP’s head of operations, said there was a need to manage people consistently while recognising the different pressures they experienced in their lives. “You have to manage the whole person and take that into account,” she explained. Creegan said the litmus test was whether people had the same experience despite the differing pressures they were under, adding that authenticity was important for managers in managing equality. “You can’t expect people to be their authentic selves if you’re not being authentic yourself,” he said.

  • Click here to download MiP’s guide to managing equality and diversity, Creating an Inclusive Workplace.

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