Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Foreword

Democracy and diversity are indissolubly linked. There should be no barriers on grounds of any characteristic protected by equalities legislation, so that our electoral processes are open and accessible for all those entitled to vote, for those who choose to stand for election and for those who campaign on their behalf. We are therefore pleased to present this strategy, which is central to the work of the Commission in protecting and promoting the electoral processes.

We have built the strategy around three key objectives:

  • ensuring that everyone who is eligible is able to participate in the electoral processes - whether as a voter, campaigner or standing for office - by identifying barriers, making recommendations and working with others to remove them
  • ensuring that we embed equality, diversity and inclusion in the delivery of all of our work, treating all our stakeholders and partners fairly and with respect, and being transparent in the decisions we make
  • ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion for everyone at the Commission and that all our staff are treated fairly and with respect

Like any organisation, we have a range of statutory obligations to ensure we promote equality, diversity and inclusion in line with our responsibilities under the Equalities Act 2010 and other relevant legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1998. We have set out in the strategy what these are and how we comply with them in our activities. But equality, diversity and inclusion are not just matters of compliance. We know we have to do more to meet this challenge and demonstrate our commitment to moving beyond compliance. This strategy sets out our aspirations to go further and challenge ourselves to reflect fully the diversity of the electorate in our work to support democracy.

This strategy covers the whole of the UK. We are accountable to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd, and are sharing this strategy with them. Different legislation applies in Northern Ireland, and this Strategy includes the Single Equalities Scheme required under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The Action Plan sets out what we will do when. We will monitor progress through our management and reporting system, and hold ourselves to account through the scrutiny of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group and our Race at Work Charter Task Force. Overarching responsibility lies with the Chief Executive and the Executive Team, and they will report regularly to the Commission Board on progress.

Everyone is entitled to participate in democracy. That is why equality, diversity and inclusion matter.
 

Our strategic objectives are

Serving a diverse electorate

Serving a diverse electorate

We are here to ensure that everyone eligible to vote knows how to exercise their vote and have their say, and that those who want to participate in politics as campaigners or seek election can get the information they need from us to be able to understand the rules. So recognising and responding to the needs of a diverse population and electorate is at the heart of our work and is what we are committed to do. Diversity covers a range of characteristics such as age, race and ethnicity, sex sexuality, disability, marital status, pregnancy and beliefs as well as issues around socio-economic disadvantage and access to opportunities. We illustrate below some of the key characteristics.

Our workforce in April 2022

The Commission has 173 employees. The majority have contractual workbases in London; we also have offices in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, and a number of permanent home-workers based across England. We illustrate below some of the key characteristics.

As at this date our current split is 70 male and 103 female employees.

Based on current self-declared data we currently have 21 black and minority ethnic employees.

Our senior managers including our Executive Team are evenly split in terms of gender. Two out of 23 are of black and minority ethnic background, which is unrepresentative of the black and minority ethnic population as a whole.

Our Board is appointed by the Speaker’s Committee and comprises ten Commissioners including the Chair. The Board is equally representative in terms of gender. However there are currently no Commissioners from a black or minority ethnic background.

The Commission has a full time EDI senior lead who is responsible for leading the Commission’s work on equality, diversity and inclusion.

Equality, diversity and inclusion sit at the centre of our People Strategy, embodying our commitment. This is a thread which runs right through the six segments of the Strategy including culture, resource planning, developing our people, getting the best from our people, valuing people and building a new flexible working culture.

A number of groups in the Commission provide a forum for discussion, constructive challenge and the ability to hold the organisation to account:

  • The Race at Work Task Force, chaired by the Chief Executive and supported by the Race at Work Champion
  • The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group
  • The Staff Engagement Group, which includes representatives from every team in the Commission
  • The Dignity, Respect and Empowerment Group, which brings together dignity advisers and works with the senior Anti-Bullying and Harassment champion
  • The Mental Health First Aiders group, which brings together mental health first aiders and ensures that the organisation supports those with mental health issues
  • The Wellbeing group, which focuses on promoting staff wellbeing

Our objectives for promoting equality, diversity and inclusion

The Commission’s equality, diversity and inclusion objectives are therefore to:

  • ensure that everyone who is eligible is able to participate in the democratic process - whether as a voter, a campaigner or by standing for office – by identifying barriers, making recommendations and working with others to remove them
  • ensure that we embed equality, diversity and inclusion in all our work, treat all our stakeholders and partners fairly and with respect, and are transparent in the decisions we make
  • ensure equality, diversity and inclusion for everyone at the Commission and ensure that all our staff are treated fairly and with respect

How we will deliver against these objectives

We will deliver these three objectives by focusing on three sets of activities.

In this chapter we set out the initiatives we will take to work with stakeholders

In this chapter we set out the initiatives we will take to work with stakeholders and partners to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion in the democratic process.

Our aim

Our aim is to maximise equality, diversity and inclusion and promote public confidence in the democratic process. We want everyone entitled to a vote to register and to be able to exercise it, campaigners to have the right information and feel able to campaign, and those who wish to stand for office to feel confident to do so.

We know that some groups are more likely to engage in the process than others. At the 2019 General Election men were more likely to vote than women (63% compared to 59%); younger people were less likely to vote than older people (47% of 18-24 year olds compared to 74% of over-65s); and white people were more likely to vote than black and Asian minority ethnic people (63% compared to 52%)4 .

Our approach is based on three priorities:

  • Gathering evidence: understanding the issues through research and consultation
  • Accessibility: ensuring we understand the issues faced by voters, campaigners and those standing for office and ensuring we meet best practice in accessibility
  • Communications: ensuring that all voters are aware of their right to vote and know how to exercise it, and targeting demographics we know are least likely to be registered to vote; ensuring that we communicate across all parts of the regulated community

What we have already achieved

Some examples

Taking it further

What we propose to do next

These activities represent a substantial investment of time and resource for the Commission. We will continue to work with our partners to reach communities of those least likely to be registered. We will:

  • Continue to improve our research data to enhance our evidence base, drawing on existing academic research and on the insights we gain through working with stakeholder groups, and sharing outcomes with respondents where it is feasible to do so
  • Continue to ensure that campaigns to raise public awareness about the electoral system are inclusive and take account of different groups
  • Continue to ensure that our guidance to the regulated community is accessible and meets the needs of different groups
  • Take further steps to ensure our website is as accessible as possible. We will continue to update and improve our offer, and ensure that our work is directed by analytics and informed by user testing with diverse groups
  • Build on the success of the partnership work we have already done in ensuring we continue to identify the needs of diverse groups and respond to them
     

Our aim

As a public regulator we have a duty to treat all customers and partners fairly and impartially. This is not just about compliance with our statutory duties under the Public Sector Equality duty. It means ensuring that all our processes treat stakeholders equally whether they are people we regulate, partners we work with on the administration of elections or businesses we buy services from. That means putting equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of our processes and ensuring that we follow those processes to a high standard.

What we have already achieved

  • We have started work on checking our processes to ensure that they fully reflect equality, diversity and inclusion, building on our existing regulatory Quality Management Scheme
  • We carried out a review of our procurement policies to ensure that we were applying them fairly and equally
  • Our performance standards for Returning Officers set out their responsibilities to ensure that all voters are able to vote easily
  • We have commissioned an independent review of our compliance with the Welsh Language standards to help us identify areas for improvement
  • As a regulator we secure compliance with the laws on registration and on political finance proportionately, consistently and impartially. We do so firstly and primarily through the provision of support, so that parties, campaigners and those standing for office can understand the obligations they are under and have the information they need. We want to see an electoral system where candidates, campaigners and parties are confident to participate within the law and supported to do so no matter who they are
  • We have published our Enforcement Policy explaining how we enforce the law and take enforcement decisions. We also have detailed operational protocols that ensure enforcement work is carried out robustly, consistently and fairly, and that we take due account of any relevant equality, diversity or mental well-being issues

Taking it further

What we propose to do next

  • We will ensure that the guidance, support and challenge we provide for Electoral Registration Officers encourages registration from typically under-registered groups
  • We will ensure that our guidance, support and challenge to Returning Officers promote the provision of equality of access and experience for all at the polls as set out in the Government’s Disability Strategy
  • We will consult on and introduce new processes for carrying out and reviewing Equality Impact Assessments
  • We will ensure that the Commission’s procurement strategy includes clear EDI outcomes for contractors, and that effective monitoring of these contractors is done to ensure they comply
  • We will ensure through our Quality Assurance initiative that equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded as appropriate in all our processes
  • We will continue to keep our internal regulatory procedures under review to meet best practice and ensure consistency, fairness and quality underpin all our regulatory activities
  • We will ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion are included as appropriate in our policies, including our Enforcement Policy, as they are reviewed in line with our normal cycle
  • We will implement a Welsh Language Action Plan to enhance our service to Welsh speakers
     

Our aim

Working through our People Strategy, our aims include being an employer of choice and an example of good practice, reflecting the society we serve. Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion is the responsibility of all leaders, all managers, and all those in the organisation. We will achieve this for our employees with a focus on the following areas:

  • Ensuring equality in compliance with our legal responsibilities
  • Increasing the diversity of our workforce through recruitment and career progression
  • Working with our EDI Lead to look at how we further promote inclusion
  • Our learning and development offering
  • Employee performance, for example, to ensure fair treatment
  • Improving our collection of data
     

What we have done so far

We have taken steps in a wide range of areas to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across the Commission.

We use anonymous recruitment to eliminate any potential bias in shortlisting. Unconscious bias training is available and promoted to all in the Commission.

The need for equality, diversity and inclusion has been a central theme

The need for equality, diversity and inclusion has been a central theme of our work to modernise our London office. Our redesign complies with guidance from the Centre for Accessible Environments, legislative requirements and BS 8300. Remodelled kitchens and a reduction in fixed desks provide greater space and accessibility for wheelchair users. We have used colour demarcation and even lighting to help those with visual impairments. For those with hearing difficulties, an induction loop is available. And we have created a multi-faith room for quiet reflection.

Taking it further

What we propose to do next

Our People Strategy is central to meeting our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. We set out here some of the key areas we will focus on to deliver this commitment.

Communicating with our people

We have consulted staff widely in the production of this strategy. It has been shared and discussed with staff through a range of Commission groups:

  • Our Staff Engagement Group
  • Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group
  • Our Race at Work Taskforce
  • Our Dignity and Respect group
  • Our Mental Health First Aiders

We have also consulted Commission PCS representatives.
Equality, diversity and inclusion have formed a key part of our management and development leadership programme, ensuring that managers role model the values the Commission supports and embed them in their teams.

The Strategy has also been discussed with our Remuneration and Human Resources Committee and our Board.

Ensuring that everybody in the Commission knows about the Strategy and the standards it sets is crucial to its success. So an internal communications plan is one of the first priorities identified in the Action Plan.

How to give us feedback and how to tell us if you are not content

We welcome feedback on this Strategy. Please send your feedback to our EDI Lead Cindy Williams at edi@electoralcommission.org.uk, or by post to:

Cindy Williams
The Electoral Commission
3 Bunhill Row
London 
EC1Y 8YZ

If you are not content with our approach and want to make a complaint, the procedure for doing so is set out on our website.

Our Action Plan

Our Action Plan is attached at Annex A. It sets out equality related activities taking place across the Commission.

These actions will be reflected in our Corporate Plan for 2022-27, in our business and operational plans and in the objectives of all staff as appropriate. Progress will be tracked as part of the Commission’s performance tracking through monthly and quarterly reporting. We are committed to increasing and improving the collection of data.

The plan will be updated regularly as part of our wider planning.

Reporting on and sharing progress internally

Objectives for the organisation will be tracked through our internal performance monitoring system, with monthly reports to ET and quarterly reports to the Board. There will be a specific objective on equality, diversity and inclusion:

  • The Commission’s Remuneration and HR Committee will track progress on behalf of the Board and offer constructive challenge
  • The Commission’s own internal staff groups will act as critical friends, holding the leadership of the Commission accountable for progress

Reporting and sharing on progress externally

The Commission is accountable to the Speaker’s Committee of the UK Parliament, to the Scottish Parliament and to the Senedd. The key mechanism for demonstrating this accountability is through our existing mechanisms. We will set out in our annual Business Plan what actions we propose to take, and will report on progress in our Annual Report.

In Wales we will provide an annual report on our compliance with the 168 statutory Welsh Language Standards and what more we can do to enhance the bilingual services provided both internally and externally.

Specific requirements apply in Northern Ireland. The Single Equality Scheme setting out how we will meet these requirements forms part of this Strategy. We will provide an annual review of our performance against this strategy and our Disability Action Plan. We will also provide a five yearly summary of our refresh of the strategy.

Page history

First published: 22 September 2022

Last updated: