The Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 provide the background for the Equal Status Policy of the Wexford County Council.
The Acts –
- Promote equality of opportunity;
- Prohibit discrimination subject to exemptions on nine specified grounds – gender; marital status; family status; disability; sexual orientation; age; religion; race and membership of the Traveller community;
- Prohibit sexual harassment and harassment on the discriminatory grounds;
- Require the reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities;
- Allow for a wide range of positive actions.
The Acts apply to –
- Buying, selling or renting a wide variety of goods and services;
- Buying, selling or renting accommodation, etc.;
- Educational establishments.
- The Equal Status Acts apply to the Wexford Local Authorities where they provide any of a wide range of services to the public and on the occasions where they allow the use of their premises for meetings, gatherings and functions.
Nothing in this policy overrules a person’s legal and statutory rights.
Wexford County Council are committed to creating and maintaining a business and working environment that encourages and supports the right to dignity and respect for all. Anyone who works in or deals with the Wexford Local Authorities is expected to treat every individual with dignity and respect. All will be treated equally and respected for their individuality and diversity.
Wexford Local Authorities are committed to providing an excellent and equitable service to all our customers. To this end, we are constantly seeking to provide all our staff with the knowledge and expertise to deal confidently with and be professional in caring for our customers. Our goal is to have a well motivated workforce which takes pride in our work and the services we provide for the people of County Wexford.
The Equal Status Policy outlines the commitment of the Wexford Local Authorities to meet our obligations under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004, to be proactive in the promotion of equality and to work towards the prevention of discrimination. To do this we will try to ensure that –
- The services provided are free from discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation;
- All customers, service providers and employees are treated with respect and dignity;
- The services provided are accessible and relevant;
- Diversity is accommodated and the specific needs of particular groups of customers are catered for;
- Discrimination, sexual harassment or harassment of or by the staff employed by the Wexford Local Authorities will not be tolerated; and where any such behaviour occurs, it is regarded as contravening the values of the Local Authorities and treated as a serious matter which may lead to disciplinary action;
- Discrimination, sexual harassment or harassment by non-employees, such as customers, public representatives and business contacts will not be tolerated; and where any such behaviour occurs, it is regarded as contravening the values of the Local Authorities and treated as a serious matter which may lead to sanctions, such as the suspension of contract or services or exclusion from premises;
- Customer complaints will be handled fairly and sensitively and as confidentially as possible.
Wexford County Council will treat all customers equally and fairly while at the same time recognising individual or group diversity and needs and adapting the manner of service provision, where possible.
No customer receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community.
Services are provided solely on the basis of pre-determined objective eligibility criteria and according to the needs of the individual. All customers are afforded an equal opportunity of access.
The Local Authorities aim to achieve real equality of opportunity by continuously monitoring their policies, practices and procedures to ensure that they do not perpetuate any existing inequalities that may apply.
In line with our commitment to provide staff with the knowledge and expertise to deal confidently with customers and be professional in their customer service, Wexford Local Authorities have provided Disability Awareness Training for staff at all levels and Customer Care Training is ongoing. The Staff Induction Programme is constantly being expanded to include new policies, practices and procedures.
Training and information, on diversity and equality issues, will be provided through courses, seminars and other means to impress on supervisors the need for equal treatment.
Training and information, on diversity and equality issues, will be included in all training programmes e.g. induction, supervisory and management development training.
This policy and other materials produced by and for Wexford County Council will be provided in a relevant and accessible manner to customers including different formats such as Braille, audio and large print. Documents will be provided in alternate formats, on request, within 2-3 weeks. We provide information on our website, in the local media, both newspapers and radio, as well as through our offices and libraries throughout County Wexford. The website has been designed to reach AA (WCAG WAI Level 2) accessibility levels. Our design staff will continue their efforts to make information on it available in a format which is accessible to all, regardless of ability or disability.
Reasonable Accommodation of People with Disabilities
Wexford County Council are obliged to provide reasonable accommodation for customers with disabilities. This will be done by providing, where appropriate and reasonable, special facilities for people to access services without undue difficulty to ensure that they are not excluded by physical, system, communications and attitudinal barriers.
An access audit of our public buildings has recently been completed. Having regard to the recommendations of the audit, an Implementation Plan will be prepared. This Plan will outline the measures to be taken to improve facilities and services and will be subject to ongoing monitoring and review. An Access Officer has been appointed for this purpose.
Accessibility objectives will also be built into the Performance Management and Development process throughout the organisation. This will assist in ensuring needs are recognised and met and provide for ongoing monitoring at Departmental level.
Reasonable Accommodation of Diversity
Wexford County Council are committed to the reasonable accommodation of diversity in the provision of our services.
Wexford County Council create a culture of equal opportunity by avoiding the use of discriminatory language in all documentation and portray activities in a non-discriminatory way where pictures or other illustrations are used.
There will be no express or implied discrimination against any customer at any stage. Staff will not make assumptions about the eligibility of individuals for certain services on grounds of gender, marital or family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community. All questions asked will be directed solely towards assessing the eligibility of customers for the service based on pre-determined criteria.
Various bodies/groups in the area representing minority groups will be consulted from time to time in relation to the provision of services in order to ensure that policies and procedures prohibit discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. Feedback will be evaluated by the Executive Team and any action required to improve services will be taken.
It is recognised that a policy of equality places responsibilities on management and on staff members, individually and collectively.
Wexford County Council will ensure that management at all levels actively supports, encourages and implements equality in the provision of services. To this end, equality issues will be an agenda item at all section and departmental meetings, and will be included in PMDS objectives for individual staff, as appropriate. Also, management will be actively involved in a regular review of equality policies.
This policy will be circulated to all staff so that they are aware of their responsibilities in this area.
The complaints procedure in the Customer Service Action Plan will be followed in dealing with complaints of breaches of this policy. This procedure will ensure that every complaint is investigated thoroughly and a report issued. All complaints will be taken seriously and investigated as a priority. All parties involved will be treated with respect.
The Customer Service Action Plan includes details of appeal/review mechanisms for customers who are dissatisfied with decisions in relation to services, including the right to refer complaints to the Ombudsman or Equality Tribunal, as appropriate.
All individuals, whether directly employed or contracted by the Wexford Local Authorities, have a duty and responsibility to uphold the principles of this policy. While each staff member has a responsibility to ensure equality of opportunity for customers in accessing our services, to prohibit discrimination and promote equality, Managers, Supervisors and Section Heads/Line Managers have a specific responsibility to promote the provisions of this policy.
Monitoring and Review
All policies, practices and procedures will be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis by management to ensure that they contribute, as far as possible, to the promotion of equality of opportunity. The Annual Report will contain information on the implementation of the policy and actions taken.
Complaints and Appeals Procedures
Wexford County Council is committed to delivering a first class quality service in an open and transparent manner, with courtesy and sensitivity. On occasion, we may not achieve the high standards of service that you expect. If you are not satisfied, or are not happy with a decision that we have made, you should let us know and we will deal with the matter promptly, impartially and in confidence.