Equality impact of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

Two major issues have dominated activity within the Equality Policy Unit (EPU) recently, the COVID-19 situation and Black Lives Matter, although the team have also been progressing a number of other important activities.

The current lockdown has required all our staff to adjust to new ways of working, in many cases whilst also managing significant consequences of child or other caring responsibilities, home schooling and health vulnerabilities. The University recognises these challenges and is extremely grateful to all of its staff for their efforts in continuing to deliver student education on-line and as many as possible of all the other professional service and academic activities that would normally be occurring on campus. This is in addition to the staff groups who have been required to work on campus throughout this period, who face other challenges, and whose contribution is hugely appreciated. The Equality Policy Unit is currently consulting with staff representatives and working with colleagues across the University to complete a number of ‘Equality Impact Assessments’ of both the planned first phase of returning to campus and the on-going situation of working from home. We have clearly identified several groups of staff where their personal characteristics, or combination of characteristics, lead to potential differential impact and are working with HR, Well-Being Safety and Health, and the Facilities Directorate to help identify mitigations and adjustments to address these.

Parkinson Building lit in purple light

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) developments nationally and internationally raise again the key issue of racial equality. Our University Values speak directly to this and we have a clear commitment to inclusivity of all groups in our University. We have been working to advance progress in this area already this year. The Equality and Inclusion Board (E&IB) approved becoming a signatory of the Race at Work Charter and also a new Race Equality Framework in February. This Framework makes a series of commitments around addressing inequality and removing barriers experienced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students and staff. Since February the Equality and Inclusion Delivery Group (E&IDG) has been working in partnership with trade unions and staff equality networks to develop the corresponding action plans – and to make sure these align with the emerging ‘Student Access and Success Strategic Plan’ developed through the Taught Student Education Board. The plan will be considered by E&IB at its next meeting on 24th June along with the overarching University Equality & Inclusion (E&I) Framework which will guide all our E&I work over the next five years. More detail on our work on racial equality is available on the EPU recent activities webpage which also includes further details of the frameworks mentioned here, along with the University statements and social media posts relating to BLM over the last weeks. In addition, we have also updated the Equality & Inclusion section on the University’s webpage on Values and Responsibilities to reflect our current E&I work.

The EPU have also published a webpage as part of the recognition of Carers Week at the start of the month. This includes information on support available at the University for colleagues with caring responsibilities, including one-to-one appointments available through our partnership with Carers Leeds.

The team have also developed updated Deaf Awareness Guidance, which includes practical tips for supporting deaf and hard of hearing students and colleagues at the University. The guidance explains how to improve the accessibility of your online meetings and teaching sessions, and if you are deaf or hard of hearing you can find out more about what support is available for you at the University.

Friday 12th June 2020