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Section 1 - Promoting Equality


Research with employability projects has found employability advisers view equalities as a very important part of their work. Employability projects are aware of barriers to employment for different equality groups including women and people with disabilities although the issues  are perhaps more likely to have been addressed in isolation, with the development of projects focused on specific areas of disadvantage such as disability or gender. Nowadays, there tend to be fewer targeted projects and so employability services need to become adept at addressing multiple and complex needs for all clients.

Services need to ensure they are accessible to all people by promoting:

  • equality of opportunity - ensuring different groups with different needs do not experience barriers to accessing services; and
  • equality of outcome - ensuring services meet the needs of people who experience disadvantage or inequality so they achieve the same outcome as people from other communities or  groups.

Public services have a duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality. In this section we cover these duties briefly and also highlight how employability services can become more proactive about promoting equality. The information should help services consider how well they are achieving racial equality.   

Legislation and Compliance

The Equality Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses discrimination and inequality in the UK. It brought together nine separate pieces of legislation into one single Act, simplifying the law and also strengthening it in many ways. The majority of the provisions came into force in October 2010, with others coming into force in 2011 and 2012.  The below lists the nine characteristics protected under the Equality Act (2010).

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Of direct relevance to minority ethnic groups are the provisions on racial discrimination. Race is defined as including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. Discrimination on the grounds of any of these is unlawful.

The law prohibits discrimination relating to any of the protected characteristics whether direct or indirect. Individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings under the Act. 

The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas including employment, the provision of goods and services to the public and the exercise of public functions.

The Public Sector Equality Duty is one of the provisions of the Act. It came into force in April 2011. Under this provision, public bodies (and others discharging public functions, such as third sector organisations):

  • have a general duty to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation; and
  • should promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations.

Further specific duties require public bodies to publish relevant, proportionate information showing compliance with the Equality Duty and to set equality objectives designed to enable the better performance of the general duty. An example of this, which relates to employability is given in the box below.  

In April, 2013 North Lanarkshire Council published equality outcomes in line with public sector equality duty. It developed a specific outcome to improve the job prospects for Black and minority ethnic people: "The job prospects for black and disabled people are improved" Another outcome which impacts on job prospects is: "More disabled and BME people are taking part in Community Learning and Development activities through improved access and support". The Council is developing a performance management framework for these outcomes which will outline key activities, timescales and measures to measure progress to achieving these outcomes.

Remaining Compliant with the Equality Act

A broad underlying principle in the Equality Act (2010) which providers of public services need to consider is that everyone must be treated with dignity and respect. The following are some specific things employability services need to be aware of to remain compliant.

What Constitutes Direct Discrimination?

In services and public functions when a person is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic this is considered to be direct discrimination.

A Practical Example
An employability adviser refuses to provide advice to Nana who is an African woman on the   assumption that she will not be able to understand the information because of her ethnicity.
This is a case of direct discrimination.

Direct discrimination can also occur when a person is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic even though that person does not have the characteristic themselves. This includes a person being treated less favourably because they have links or associations with someone who has a protected characteristic.

A Practical Example
Khalid is Julie's partner. Julie is unemployed and trying to get support from an employability agency. Khalid is Somali and as a result Julie is treated less favourably by advisers at the employability agency.
This is discrimination because of association with an minority ethnic person.

Direct discrimination also includes discrimination because a person is wrongly perceived to have a particular protected characteristic. 

What Constitutes Indirect Discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a rule, a policy or practice which applies to everyone but which disadvantages those with a particular protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified as lawful if it can be shown that the rule, policy or practice is intended to meet a legitimate objective in a fair, balanced and reasonable way. When considering introducing a new rule or policy, it is important to consider whether there are other ways you can meet your objectives that would not have a discriminatory effect.

A Practical Example
An employability agency has a policy of informing clients about jobs and training opportunities by telephone in English only. This makes it difficult for many ethnic minority clients, who do not speak English, to access information. Unless the service can justify its policy of informing clients only in English and by telephone as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, this can be considered to be indirect discrimination.


Harassment occurs if the conduct of the person harassing is unwanted and has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person being harassed. It is unlawful to harass somebody because of their race. If the person is then treated less favourably because he or she rejects or submits to the conduct this could also be seen as harassment.    

A Practical Example
Fumi, a Black woman is waiting at a local project when she overhears two members of staff making racially abusive comments. As this conduct was unwanted and it made her feel humiliated and degraded, she can bring a claim of harassment.


Victimisation occurs when someone is treated less favourably/badly because they have taken an action in relation to the Equality Act, such as making or supporting a complaint or raising a grievance about discrimination, or because it is suspected that they have taken or may take such action. A person is not protected from victimisation if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint.

A Practical Example
Aisha makes a formal complaint against her employability adviser that they have discriminated against her because of her Asian background. The complaint is resolved through the agency's grievance procedures. However, as a result of making the complaint the adviser has refused to provide support for Aisha.
This is a case of victimisation.

Positive Action

Some people with protected characteristics are disadvantaged or under-represented in some areas of life or have particular needs linked to their characteristic. They may need extra help or encouragement if they are to have the same opportunities as everyone else. The positive action provisions in the Equality Act allow public sector organisations to take reasonable steps to help people tackle their disadvantages or to meet their needs.
Employability services then can take action to encourage people to access their services or put services in place that meet the different needs of some groups.  The example below shows how positive action can be taken in an employability context. 

The Roma Employability Project delivered by Jobs & Business Glasgow worked with local community organisations to reach clients. They had to adapt their provision to meet the needs of clients, with poor English literacy. Instead of class based training they emphasised hands on training, volunteering and work placements to showcase clients' skills and abilities to potential employers. They also support clients in an holistic way including offering language support, advocacy, assistance with benefits and IT support. Clients are also signposted for specific money advice with regards to debt. All of this has helped to engage clients effectively.

See a full case study of the Roma Project here


Further Information

Scottish Government equalities information

Scottish Ministers published their regulations in relation to the specific duties in May 2012

The Government Equalities Office website

UK Legislation website

Equality and Human Rights Commission website

Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights provides access to information and documentation regarding the Public Sector Equality Duty and the Scottish Specific Duties through their portal


A critical aspect of promoting equality is having robust monitoring in place to identify who is using the service. Services should collect data on ethnicity to identify whether there are differences in engagement and outcomes across ethnic groups.  All employability partnerships and services should be incorporating monitoring of ethnicity into their client monitoring systems. This allows services to identify how many people are engaged and whether anything needs to be done to improve rates of engagement. Outcomes across clients groups should also be monitored so corrective action to improve services and outcomes can be taken. Data on gender should also be collected in view of the specific difficulties faced by minority ethnic women in the labour market. 

What to Monitor

The categories used in the Census are most useful for ethnic monitoring as this allows comparison and covers all ethnic groups. Ethnicity should be recorded for all clients who join an employability service.  Existing arrangements should be examined to identify:

  • where monitoring data is currently insufficient;
  • where this could be improved upon; and
  • what will happen to monitoring data after it has been collected.

The categories for the most recent census (2011) are shown below and can be incorporated into client records systems.

The information can be obtained by asking: What is your ethnic group?

Section 1 - Table 1

See: Scotlands Census website 

What Should be Done With the Information?

This information can provide a basis for further investigation into why there are different rates of engagement and outcome for different ethnic groups than might be expected.  An example of how to approach this is given in the box below.

Capital City Partnership record and monitor the ethnicity of all clients who join their services by recording this information on their Caselink client monitoring system. They use the Census categories as this allows a useful comparison of their client data. Recently, they compared Census data for Edinburgh with their client caseload. Ideally, it would be good to compare activity rates and unemployment for different groups but this information is not yet available. Instead, they looked at the population data. Using the 2011 Census they found:

  • 23.9% of their clients described themselves as white: other although the population of Edinburgh has only 2.1% who describe themselves as white: other. The partnership is engaging more people from this group than would be expected.
  • Only 3.4% of the client caseload are from an Asian background although 5.5% of the population of Edinburgh has an Asian background. Fewer people from this group are being engaged than would be expected.
  • People from other ethnic groups also achieved fewer outcomes compared to white: Scottish people.

This information has therefore highlighted areas the Partnership can investigate further to find out why there are differences in engagement rates and outcomes. 
For more information see Ethnicity Profile of Caseline (Employability) Clients - Summary of Findings document.  

There must be commitment to report equalities data. It is important to have a procedure for addressing equalities issues that are identified through monitoring and reporting.  Action should involve setting specific targets for equalities groups in relation to engagement and outcomes. 

Further Information
The Equality and Human Rights Commission published a useful guide on ethnic monitoring for public authorities which outlines the rationale for monitoring and how to do it.

Equality Impact Assessment

Equality impact assessments (EIA) can be conducted to ensure any new policy or programme will not have an inadvertent negative effect on equality groups. The starting point is recognition that people have different needs and requirements - it is not sufficient to treat everyone the same; services must take into account the potential differential impacts of changes to policy or services. An EIA involves gathering information to assess the possible impact of a service. If a policy or service change involves people it is likely that an EIA needs to be carried out.

EIA generally has 10 steps as outlined below.

Step 1 is defining the aims of the policy or service - what is it designed to achieve? How will the needs of different groups be integrated into its aims and objectives? Who will benefit and how?

Step 2 is setting out what is already known about the diverse needs and experiences of the target group. This will help to understand the effects of the policy or service - positive and negative. This information could include statistical evidence or research evidence. It is important to consider the implications of any findings from this information carefully - if the research suggests that there may not be an impact or only a small impact, does this need further investigation?

Step 3 involves looking at this evidence and deciding what else is needed.  Are there any gaps in the evidence collected? Does further analysis need to be carried out?  Is there enough information to proceed?

Step 4 is using the information to assess how different groups will be affected.  Will any groups be excluded? Will the proposed changes be beneficial to some or all groups? Will there be any adverse effects and if so could this amount to unlawful discrimination?

Step 5 is deciding whether there is a need for any change to the service or policy to avoid adverse impacts. What action can be taken? Who will take that action? When should it be taken?

Step 6 involves thinking about how the policy or programme provides an opportunity to promote equality and good relations. An EIA is not just about identifying negative impacts, but also about where there are opportunities to make things better.

Step 7 is rating the impact - whether it will be high, medium or low on equality groups - the high can include a mix of positive and negative impacts.

Step 8 looks at whether a further impact assessment is required.

Step 9 is setting out how the impact of the policy or service will be monitored to ensure adverse impacts are avoided and positive impacts realised. Data requirement, how often they will be collected and how they will be analysed should be outlined.

Step 10 is signing off and publishing the impact assessment.   

Equalities Training

Equalities training can help employability practitioners feel more confident they are taking the right approach.  Training can be provided for all staff members as part of induction and also offered as continuing professional development but it should be tailored to roles within the organisation.

Good equalities training results in staff having a better understanding of their role in promoting equality and feeling more confident about their capacity to work with equalities groups including minority ethnic clients. Training should:

  • allow staff to increase knowledge and understanding of equality legislation;
  • provide them with the right information to help them to deal with day to day issues;
  • allow them to integrate this into their day to day practice.  

There is a range of organisations that can provide equality and diversity training including organisations which work with ethnic minorities, academic institutions, local authorities and private trainers. Many will tailor training to meet your organisation's particular needs.  When planning training look for the following to be included.

  • Promoting equality and diversity and raising interest in these issues.
  • Raising awareness of the legal context.
  • Identifying the business case for equalities.
  • Increasing knowledge of the Equality Act (2010).
  • Helping staff to understand key concepts such as direct and indirect discrimination.
  • Helping staff explore their own views, for example around stereotypes, and how they can lead to discrimination. 
  • Identifying action that can be taken both within the organisation and with clients. 

Embedding Equality

Training on its own will be insufficient to embed equality into services. Mechanisms to support staff must be put in place. The European Social Fund Equality and Diversity Good Practice Guide - Ethnic Minority Communities, highlights common features of employability projects which have a good approach to promoting equality and diversity.  These are listed below. 

  • A good understanding of equality and diversity and the communities they support.
  • Have secured community buy - in to encourage the engagement of diverse participants.
  • Have a robust and fair approach to assessment and development of participants.
  • Have relevant processes and partnerships in place to support participants into employment.
  • Ensure there is ongoing monitoring and evaluation to continue that support for those in employment.

Woman Listening 180x 165

Learning Points

1. Employability services need to ensure they are accessible to all people by promoting equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
2. Monitoring ethnicity is a critical aspect of promoting equality and all employability services should be doing this.
3. Equality impact assessments can determine the likely impact of a change in services for different equalities groups and should be carried out when planning any changes in services.
4. Training can help employability staff feel more confident they are taking the right approach.    
5. Mechanisms need to be put in place to support staff to integrate promoting equalities into their day to day practice.