Family friendly practices such as the newly refurbished parenting and rest room for expectant mothers are tangible examples of the Parliament’s commitment to achieving gender equality, and are contained in an action plan published this week.
The Scottish Parliament’s Gender Equality Scheme and action plan was published after consulting with staff and gender equality organisations. The development of the scheme is set out in the Gender Equality Duty, which came into force in April 2007.
Although the duty requires all public authorities, including the Scottish Parliament, to promote equality between men and women and eliminate sex discrimination, the Parliament is not currently one of the public authorities required to publish a gender equality scheme.
Scottish Parliament Clerk and Chief Executive Paul Grice said:
“The Scottish Parliament has taken the positive and proactive step of developing a scheme and action plan to achieve greater equality for men and women.
“Whilst good progress has been made to date the scheme gives us an opportunity to further our commitment to gender equality and make a positive difference for men and women.”
The Gender Equality Scheme includes an action plan, which identifies three priority areas: services, employment and corporate issues.
Actions in the scheme include: upgrading facilities for parents, such as those for breastfeeding; monitoring the uptake by men and women of Parliamentary services; reporting on the use of committee services and public petitions and effective engagement with black and ethnic minority women.
Employment related actions include monitoring the uptake of flexible working arrangements and schemes to support staff with caring responsibilities; ensuring equal access to promotions and providing enhanced support to women on maternity leave.
Other previous initiatives in the Parliament to strengthen gender equality include:
- In 2004 the Parliament carried out its first equal pay audit, which revealed no discrepancies in pay between men and women. The Parliament continues to monitor this to ensure this situation is maintained.
- The Parliament’s flexible working policies have received strong pick-up from staff with more than 70% using them, in particular to help with childcare and caring commitments.
- The Parliament offers two training courses to staff – dignity at work and general equalities training. Almost all staff have now completed the training, with refresher courses due to be run this year.
- The Parliament has a crèche, which is open to the public and to Parliamentary pass holders.
- The Parliament has hosted events aimed at raising the profile of gender equality issues such as the ‘If I can’t vote I don’t count’ exhibition, which explored the women’s suffrage movement in Scotland.
- Staff have been trained to carry out security screening in a respectful and dignified manner, particularly in relation to specific groups, such as women of faith.
The scheme will eventually be combined with the Race and Disability Equality Schemes into a single comprehensive equality scheme. Although specific actions relating to race, gender and disability will continue, a single unified scheme will enable the Parliament to further develop its commitment to advances in age, religion and sexual orientation equality.