Labour Research April 2009

Equality news

NHS publishes new guides on equality

The Department of Health has published two new equality guides for the NHS — one on sexual orientation and the other on religion and belief.

They are part of a suite of NHS equality guides designed to help the NHS comply with recent equality legislation, understand the role of sexual orientation and religion or belief in the context of healthcare, and integrate the knowledge into single equality schemes.

The sexual orientation guide sets out the legislative requirements, but also sets out the steps needed to carry out an equality impact assessment for NHS organisations to ensure they prevent discrimination. This covers fair recruitment practices, tackling workplace bullying and harassment, ensuring fair terms and conditions, managing performance fairly and workforce monitoring.

The religion or belief guide says NHS employment policies should be reviewed to take account of how they impact on religious and other beliefs and practices. This starts right from the recruitment stage so that, for example, students are made aware before they enter training that there may be health and safety issues in hospitals connected with religious clothing or symbols.

Surinder Sharma, national director for equality and human rights at the health department, says it is “essential that we strengthen our role as an inclusive employer — removing barriers that might prevent us from attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining people with the best skills and aptitude to make careers in the NHS”.