Union complaint against Office for National Statistics is first test for new equality watchdog

The UK’s new, all-powerful, equality and diversity watchdog is set for an early test of its powers after a complaint was lodged against a government agency.

The Trevor Phillips-chaired Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) received a claim against the Office for National Statistics (ONS) during its first week.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) wrote to the commission, alleging that the ONS did not fulfil its legal equality duties when deciding to outsource up to 60 jobs.

The ONS plans to transfer computer support staff to IT firm Fujitsu Services to save money and modernise services. The PCS believes the office broke the law by not carrying out an equality impact assessment (EIA) of the decision.

Darren Williams, campaigns officer for PCS Wales, told Personnel Today: “ONS man­agement acknowledged that it needed to conduct an EIA, but have now made an announcement without doing so.”

He said that although the jobs will initially remain at the sites in Newport, South Wales, and Titchfield, Hampshire, the union was concerned that Fujitsu would insist on a deal allowing it to shift the roles elsewhere. “This would affect women with caring responsibilities, staff with disabilities, and those working part time more than others,” he said. “This case will be a test for the EHRC as we are talking about it affecting more than one group of staff.”

An ONS spokesman said it had performed an “initial EIA”, and would carry out a full impact assessment before signing the deal. The EHRC was unable to comment.

EHRC spends thousands on name game

The EHRC spent £100,000 rearranging the words in its name, Personnel Today can reveal.

Set up as the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, it made a last-minute decision to re-brand as the Equality and Human Rights Commission for its 1 October launch. This meant everything had to be changed – from the website to business cards – as the organisation redesigned its logo.

A spokesman said: “The name has been changed to add emphasis to the issues being tackled. The logo and overall visual language are based on the ‘equals’ sign. This was felt to be strong, authoritative and to reflect our core principle of equality for all.”

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