Staff listening exercise
University of York Staff Race Equality Forum (SREF) listening exercise: one year on.
The University of York Staff Race Equality Forum provides opportunities for peer networking, support and development among Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and supports the promotion of an equal and inclusive University community.
In 2019, the then Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Saul Tendler initiated a proactive listening exercise with members of the University Staff Race Equality Forum (SREF) to understand their experiences and feedback ideas on how the University can increase BAME recruitment and support progression.
An action plan was created following feedback from this exercise. Over the past year the SREF Steering Group, Equality and Diversity Office and Human Resources have been working together to deliver this plan which continues to be supported by Professor Saul Tendler and our recently appointed Vice Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery. This briefing highlights key achievements to date.
Feedback 1: we need to better record BAME characteristics to help monitor progress on equality
What we did: we supported the launch of the University's equality monitoring activity.
We have contributed to the development of a revised set of equality monitoring questions. Launched in April 2020, all staff will now have the opportunity to complete a more inclusive set of questions via their MyView accounts, including, for the first time: religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender identity. We encourage you to update your records. This will help us understand important issues such as the University's ethnicity pay gap by allowing more accurate reporting.
Feedback 2: we need to reinforce a culture of respect, tolerance and inclusion
What we did: we supported the introduction of a new Dignity at work and study policy.
We have supported the development of the new Dignity at work and study policy, replacing the former Codes of Practice on bullying and harassment. The new policy has been approved by the University Executive Board, and aims to provide a clear approach for our staff and students to report incidents of harassment, bullying and hate incidents. We intend to offer proactive training on the implementation of this policy.
Feedback 3: let's celebrate diversity on campus
What we did: marked key equality events on campus.
A Diversity Events and Celebrations Working Group has been created to coordinate and mark key diversity and religious events throughout the academic year. This collaborative effort has led to an increase in the number of events and participants at key events. For example, in 2018, four events took place on campus to mark Black History Month, with a total of 90 participants attending. In 2019 this increased to nine events on campus, with over 388 participants. A diversity events calendar has been created to remind staff of key events and celebrations. A 'celebrating diversity' events image has been created which we hope to see rolled out throughout 2020 and beyond.
Feedback 4: more opportunities for BAME mentorship
What we did: we are encouraging more BAME mentors to join the University’s mentoring programme.
We have expanded our mentoring network, ensuring BAME mentors are well represented within the group. We are encouraging mentors and mentees to provide their equality information and also the identities and experiences of the staff member they would like to be paired with, for example staff who identify as BAME, LGBT or with a disability.
Feedback 5: more visa and settlement support for international staff
What we did: a salary advance scheme for International staff on Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas was introduced.
UEB approved a salary advance policy for immigration application fees, this was implemented in May 2019. In addition, the University has provided a number of Android devices available for loan, to support staff applying via the Settled Status app.
From June 2021, the University provides visa application fee and IHS reimbursement for eligible international employees.
Feedback 6: embed inclusive practice within the University academic promotions process
We have increased BAME representation within our academic promotions panel. We have also included within the application form a section on individual circumstances to enable academic colleagues seeking promotion to disclose aspects of their personal equality-related circumstances that they feel may have impacted on their ability to evidence achievement against Academic Promotions criteria.
Professor Saul Tendler
"The listening exercise has delivered real change. I am delighted to see such progress delivered through a productive partnership between SREF and many departments and colleagues across the University. This is hugely important work; we all have a duty to ensure that we are an equal and inclusive community. I do hope that we now take the opportunity to build on this progress to consider what additional measures we can support to take this important agenda forward."
Dr Avtar Matharu
"As Chair of SREF and its Steering Group I’m delighted in the progress made to date which is a direct result of open engagement with our members, the Equality and Diversity Office, Human Resources and the Vice-Chancellor's Office. Our achievements will have a demonstrable impact for the University, both internal and external, as we continue to work with senior leaders for continued positive action. The action plan developed as a result of the listening exercise aims to make the University a more inclusive environment for both current and new staff by recognising, retaining, rewarding and attracting the best talent.
I encourage you to update your equality information in your MyView record, put yourselves forward to become a mentor or mentee, contribute to celebrating diversity and the inspirational identities we bring to our campus, and get involved in our activities to be part of this change.
Going forward, we will continue to engage with members of our SREF community to build on the successes from the past 12 months. SREF is committed to developing our institutional values of a university for public good, a community of shared purpose and a responsive university."