A review of equality statistics in Oxford Health Foundation Trust has raised questions as to the effectiveness of the Trust’s Equality monitoring procedures. By comparing the ethnic make up of the Trust with the proportions who are subject to disciplinary procedures UNISON has uncovered a worrying picture that stewards believe requires action by the Trust in order to comply with its duties under the Equalities Act.

The figures show that staff belonging to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups are, on the whole, more likely to be subject to disciplinary hearings than
“white British” staff - the largest grouping.Though BME staff make up only 20% of the workforce, they were subject to 50% of disciplinary proceedings recorded by the Trust in 2013. In contrast, staff who identify as white British are more likely to be subject to capability proceedings. One interpretation of these figures is that performance issues are dealt with in very different ways depending on your ethnic group - with more of a learning and development approach being used for white British staff, with BME staff facing more disciplinary proceedings.

For some groups the incidence of capability or disciplinary proceedings is so low that it questionable whether they are significant: a single case can
create a dramatic picture due to the low numbers employed in that group, but for other groups the picture is startling. Staff who define themselves as having African or Caribbean origin are particularly over-represented in disciplinary hearings, making up 38% of hearings though comprising less than 8% of the workforce. The worst affected group are black African staff, who make up a quarter of staff subject to disciplinary proceedings though they are less than 6% of the workforce.It should come as no surprise then that staff with African or Caribbean ancestry are most likely to seek redress at Employment Tribunal, with 35% of applications – though they make up just under 8% of the workforce.

Figures provided by the Trust to UNISON also reveal that BME staff are significantly more likely to be off sick as a result of illnesses related to stress and depression.  The causes of stress and depression are often complex, but workplace conditions in which mistakes are more likely to be dealt with harshly could very easily contribute to stress and depression.

Anecdotal evidence provided to UNISON stewards is that BME staff do feel they are discriminated against and dealt with unfairly, and often lack confidence to raise their concerns for fear of being ignored or facing a backlash.

UNISON stewards, with our new branch-funded BME organiser Nigel Carter, will be working with BME members to help raise confidence in raising their concerns

UNISON will also be approaching the Trust for a review of its use of Disciplinary and Capability procedures in relation to BME staff and to look at ways
it can support BME staff  raising their concerns. Unison stewards recognise that the increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric by mainstream parties is likely to fuel racist attitudes and practices in the workplace, by normalising negative views and assessments of BME staff.

Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch is supporting the national march against racism on March 22nd (below) to help turn the tide against the increase
in racism.