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UCU equality scheme

UCU's national executive has set up a steering group to oversee the development and implementation of a UCU equality scheme.

This is an exciting and innovative project which will give UCU a systematic way to measure and celebrate our success in achieving equality in the workplace and to identify areas for improvement. It will provide the tools for members, branches, regions and staff to embed equality within our bargaining and campaigning work.

See the priorities for regional, national and HQ operations.


UCU is not legally obliged to produce an equality scheme. We are doing this because it is a key way to demonstrate and articulate our commitment to equality.

The majority of the UCU scheme is made up of a three year action plan which is practical, realistic yet challenging and which covers everything UCU does as a trade union and as an employer.

This is not a paper exercise. It is about improving and promoting equality with the involvement of as wide a group of UCU members and staff as possible.


  • Equality affects everyone
  • We don't all start from the same place
  • Equality doesn't always mean treating people in the same way: it means responding to different needs in different ways to ensure equality of access, participation and outcome.

Placing the scheme in context

UCU's commitment to equality

While our prime concern is to fight for greater equality and to oppose all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination at work, we recognise that this includes the injustices that members face in all areas of their lives, whether on grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, colour, class, impairment or disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or belief, age, socio-economic status, casualisation or any other aspect of status or personal characteristic which can lead to discrimination.

This scheme builds on UCU's existing commitment to equality set out in our rule book and demonstrated through our structures and our actions.

UCU members work for public bodies which are legally required to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. As part of their public sector duties, colleges and universities are required to produce equality schemes, carry out equality impact assessments of their policies and procedures, consult with their recognized trade unions and involve disabled people in their decision making processes.

UCU has campaigned hard to hold colleges and universities to account and to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations under the public sector duty legislation.

However, too often our members are let down when, for example, impact assessments are not undertaken. Many members have experience of the production of lengthy equality schemes in colleges and universities without union involvement which promise to do very little.

We have therefore taken the decision to develop our own equality scheme and procedures for impact assessment to build on this commitment and to go beyond the statutory position. We recognise that the legislative structure in relation to the public sector duty, and the specific duties attached to it, will change as a result of the new Equality Act. Irrespective of any changes to legislation, UCU believes that this equality scheme will provide a benchmark against which to measure our own progress, as an employer and a union.

Development of the scheme

The NEC set up a steering group in March 2009 with representation from all NEC sub committees, the four equality standing committees and the anti casualisation committee to oversee the development and implementation of the scheme. All regional and national committees of the union were asked between October 2009 and February 2010 to consult widely in order to agree three priority action points for inclusion in the scheme.

The steering group consulted on a set of principles to govern the development of the scheme. These were agreed as:

  • UCU will develop a three year equality scheme 2010-2013.
  • The scheme will be comprehensive in scope going beyond the current public sector duties. It will cover: age, impairment or disability status, gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion or belief, gender identity, socio-economic status and casualisation: agency work, fixed-term and hourly-paid contracts.
  • The scheme will be outcome driven; with practical, realistic and challenging action plans.
  • Outcomes will be linked to the union's bargaining, campaigning and organising agenda outlined in the National Organising Plan (www.ucu.org.uk/nop )
  • The scheme will be developed with the active involvement of all UCU members and staff.
  • The scheme will contain agreed mechanisms for monitoring and review.
  • The scheme should not be a snap shot at a particular moment. This should be an evolving process.

What does this mean for branches?

Branches and local associations are encouraged to discuss their region's priority action points within the equality scheme and to feedback thoughts and suggestions for taking this work forward to regional committee members. UCU regional committee contacts are available at: Regional and national committees.

Branches and local associations have not been asked to identify their own priorities for inclusion in the scheme. In each region, regional committees were the key conduit for identifying the three priority areas for the scheme's action plan, with the involvement of all their local associations and branches. Regional committees were strongly encouraged to involve branch equality officers and members of regional equality networks.

What does this mean for regional and national committees?

Each UCU regional and national committee has identified three key action points. These may be for one, two or the full three years of the scheme. Regional and national committees will be asked to monitor progress against these action points, with the active involvement of members and branches, and to report back to Congress via the national steering group.

The action plan

Most of the scheme is its action plan. This has been developed with involvement of members and staff across all parts of the union. The scheme's action plan is the tool to embed equality within our bargaining, campaigning and organising work. As such, the scheme will provide a systematic way to measure and celebrate our success in achieving equality in all aspects of UCU's activities and to identify areas for improvement.

The full action plan, including action points from all regional and national committees and organisational functions, is available  (.doc) file type icon here (.doc) [671kb].

Some example action points from regional committees include:

  • To develop an equality and human rights network, to get participation from across all branches in the region and to improve participation in the region's equality structures.
  • To ensure that at least one member per branch is trained in equality impact assessments.

Key themes emerge from action points submitted from regional committees:

  • Equal pay audits
  • Networking
  • Equality impact assessments/monitoring
  • Mapping
  • Campaigning/Resources i.e. materials
  • Audits
  • Advice and guidance (including newsletters)
  • Training
  • Organising hourly paid staff
  • Organising/Recruiting
  • Bargaining

Many of the action points from national committees cover a number of similar areas, particularly in relation to monitoring implementation of agreements, equal pay reviews, training and support for branch reps.

The equality scheme steering group will review the key themes and make recommendations for suitable support and resources.

Impact assessment

One of the priorities of UCU's Personnel department (and of the National Executive Committee) is to undertake Equality Impact Assessments of staff policies and procedures. This will be done in conjunction with staff unions and progress will be reported to the national steering group.

The steering group will also drawn up guidelines and advice for regional committees and national committees to allow all parts of UCU's structure to assess the equality impact of any actions they are considering.


A structure will be put in place for annual monitoring of progress against the action points contained in the scheme's action plan. Support will be available from the steering group and an annual report will go to Congress each year. The steering group intends to include examples of best practice in the annual revisions made to the scheme.

More information or support

If you require more information about UCU's Equality Scheme, please contact UCU's Equality Unit in the first instance: eqadmin@ucu.org.uk or see www.ucu.org.uk/equality

Priorities submitted from the Regional, National and HQ Operations

National Committees:
 (.doc) file type icon National Executive Committee & (.doc) [95kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Higher Education Committee (.doc) [130kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Further Education Committee (.doc) [128kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Education Committee (.doc) [125kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Recruitment, Organising and Campaigning Committee (.doc) [163kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Equality Committee (.doc) [130kb]

Sub-Committees of the National Executive Committee:
 (.doc) file type icon Black Members Standing Committee (.doc) [128kb]
 (.doc) file type icon LGBT Members' Standing Committee (.doc) [128kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Women Members' Standing Committee (.doc) [151kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Disabled Members' Standing Committee (.doc) [134kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Anti-Casualisation Committee (.doc) [146kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Medical Research Committee (.doc) [152kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Academic-Related Committee (.doc) [162kb]

Regional Committees:
 (.doc) file type icon East Midlands (.doc) [132kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Eastern and Home Counties (.doc) [127kb]
 (.doc) file type icon London (.doc) [144kb]
 (.doc) file type icon North West (.doc) [92kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Northern (.doc) [129kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Northern Ireland (.doc) [117kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Scotland (.doc) [100kb]
 (.doc) file type icon South (.doc) [145kb]
 (.doc) file type icon South East (.doc) [157kb]
 (.doc) file type icon South West (.doc) [131kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Wales (.doc) [156kb]
 (.doc) file type icon West Midlands (.doc) [146kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Yorkshire and Humberside (.doc) [136kb]

Head Office Operations
 (.doc) file type icon Personnel Department (.doc) [168kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Finance Department (.doc) [76kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Constitution and Committees (.doc) [88kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Building and facilities (.doc) [167kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Information Technology (.doc) [127kb]
 (.doc) file type icon Legal Services (.doc) [77kb]

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