Equality and Good relations

The Code of Good Governance indicates that an effective board will consider organisational responsibility in promoting equality and good relations.

This means in practice that the management committee needs to ensure that equal opportunities and diversity principles are applied in all areas of the organisations work.  The only variation to this principle may be where an organisation is set up to serve one particular section of the community e.g. women or young people.  In these contexts an approach based wholly on equal opportunities and diversity may not be possible.  The principles may need to be adapted to ensure the service is provided appropriately and as far as possible within the context of equal opportunities and diversity.  In general, management committees need to ensure that equal opportunities and diversity are promoted and upheld in all aspects of the organisation's work.  

Legislative Framework

The management committee is responsible for ensuring that the organisation complies with all relevant legislation in relation to employment or the provision of goods and services.

In Northern Ireland various pieces of legislation have identified nine equality categories:

  • gender, including gender reassignment
  • disability
  • race
  • age
  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • persons with and without dependants
  • religious belief
  • political opinion.

The legislative framework in Northern Ireland does not apply in terms of employment and goods facilities and services for all of these categories, for example age is not currently covered under goods facilities and services.  However the principles of the equality legislation need to be considered by management committees.  Key areas for consideration are:

  • The identification and assessment of needs to be met;
  • allocation of resources, making of grants and provision of services;
  • membership of the board and any sub-committees;
  • staff recruitment, selection, training and conditions of service;
  • communication with stakeholders and the public;
  • accessibility of meetings and communications; and
  • the buying of goods and services.

(Taken from Good Governance: a Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector in England and Wales)

The Equality Commission has produced a Unified Guide to Promoting Equal Opportunities in Employment. which is a useful guide.  The Charity Commission has produced a guide on Equality for Charities which has a useful review of the equality legislation and how it could impact on charities.

Volunteering

Consideration must also be given to diversity in volunteering which is not specifically covered by equality legislation however the Equality Commission and Volunteer Now have produced a publication called Promoting Equality and Diversity in Volunteering which addresses this subject. 

Good Relations

‘Good Relations’ “The growth of relationships and structures for Northern Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society, and that seek to promote respect, equity and trust, and embrace diversity in all its forms.” Equality Commission

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, places a duty on public bodies to have regard to good relations when carrying out their public functions.  Although this legal duty only extends to public authorities, many other organisations have put in place policies to support the development of good relations.  

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