Equality impact statement relating to Student Placement Toolkit

Updated on 26 October 2022

The Student Placement Toolkit is relevant to the Equality Act 2010, the Public Sector Equality Duty and the protected characteristics as set out in the Act. The summary sets out the level of relevance and where the Toolkit takes account of equality issues and where gaps are identified.

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Public sector equality duty

1. Promote equality of opportunity

The toolkit is designed to ensure a mechanism whereby students are placed where they can be fully supported in order that they achieve the maximum benefit from their placement. It that sense the toolkit sets in place a process for positively promoting equality of opportunity.

2. Eliminate unlawful discrimination

The steps within the toolkit imply a desire to eliminate unlawful discrimination, an example being 2.2.2 where consideration is given to enabling disabled students to participate in placements. However, the detail throughout the toolkit as to what is expected to happen in order that that be achieved is limited.

Where there are clearly steps designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination that needs to be set out more clearly. So taking point 2.2.2, you would expect to see an indication as to the introduction of reasonable adjustments at the selection stage of the process and ensuring the employer is fully equipped to follow through with those adjustments.

3. Promote good relations

In relation to this element of the Public Sector Equality Duty, the fact that students from across the world will have an opportunity of a placement within an organisation can help to foster good relations, however this can only be affected where the correct mechanisms are in place to prepare and support both the student and the employer and also where monitoring arrangements are in place. A number of points throughout the Toolkit support these important requirements and examples are 2.1.2; 2.3.1; 2.4.4 and 2.6.2.

4. The Protected Characteristics

4.1 Age

There is no mention of age appropriateness within the Toolkit, however there is mention of carrying out a risk assessment for placements. In addition the Toolkit mentions the need for clear articulation and communication between the School and Placement Provider. I would expect these assessments to identify any matters relating to potential discrimination based on age.

4.2 Disability

In relation to disability, over 1000 of our students are currently receiving support from disability services. There are likely to be other students who would benefit from some support but for social, cultural and personal reasons choose not seek out that support. In terms of the Toolkit the requirement for the consideration and implementation of reasonable adjustments for placements should be clear from the outset. Any risk assessment for a placement should include matters relating to their disability and the support needed. Having a disability should not in most cases be a barrier to placement, however is should be fully established that the placement provider is aware of their responsibilities in this area. The continuing evaluation of placements should also consider the effectiveness of the placement where disability or health conditions are identified.

4.3 Gender re-assignment

Social and cultural understanding of gender re-assignment is still at a very early stage and there are a great deal of prejudices which affect those who re-assign their gender on a day to day basis. In this area the evaluation of the placement provider and their culture and understanding of equality matters is of vital importance. Similarly the support mechanism for the student should be robust. Monitoring of the placement and its effectiveness is very important in providing assurance to any student who has reassigned their gender and are stepping into workplaces, possible for the first time

4.4 Marriage and civil partnership

There are two points here. The first is related to the right for a placement to bring with them their spouse. The different immigration laws will dictate whether this is possible. The second is where there is a cultural risk to those who are in a Civil Partnership of Same Sex Marriage. The preparation of the student should be thorough giving a clear picture of the level of risk and making alternative arrangement if that risk is deemed too great. The ability to be one’s self is important to achieving the best performance from the student and also to their overall health and wellbeing. To place a student in an environment where there is a daily risk to them would have the opposite effect. Monitoring of any placement is of vital importance and a key element of the support for the student.

4.5 Pregnancy and Maternity

Pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic in so far as there is significant evidence of discrimination of women either when they are pregnant or because they are believed to be of an age that they will likely become pregnant. The result is that many women hide their pregnancy when applying for posts or when already in the workplace. In addition there may be some activities that would place a pregnant woman or her unborn child at risk because of the nature of the role. The preparation of both the placement provider and the risk assessment processes should highlight whether any of these concerns arise.

4.6 Race

A significant proportion of our students are oversees students and we also have minority ethnic groups within our UK student population. A clear understanding of any cultural, language or political differences between the placement provider and the placement should be taken into account when arranging placements. Language, culture and political differences are the three main areas where there is a risk of a placement not being successful. Where English is not the first language, either

4.7 Religion and belief

The policy is relevant to religion and belief. The University has students of all nationalities and a range of different faith groups. In recent times within Scotland there has been shown to be a rise in the number of hate crimes relating to faith, in particular Islamophobia. In addition sectarianism also plays a significant part in some areas of Scotland. In order for the placement to be a positive experience the evaluation of the placement provider and the preparation of the student are vital to that. Faith requirement should be able to be met in most cases and the student should be free from any sense of harassment or intolerance because of their faith. Monitoring of the success of the placement is key in identifying any matters which may come to the fore in the early stages of the placement.

4.8 Sex

The concern for any placement would be that the culture within the environment into which they are being sent, in no way undervalues one sex or another. Again the assessment of the placement provider and the preparation and support available to the student should ensure that anysuch issues which do arise are addressed quickly. Where one sex or another steps into an environment that is heavily gender biased in the opposite gender, there can also be issues of isolation. This is not necessarily intended, but can result in an individual withdrawing and therefore not producing their best work. Gender is also often an area where other factors such as cultural values differ. In placing a student in any employment care should be taken to ensure that those values do not expose the individual to unnecessary risk. The risk assessment process should take these matters into account.

4.9 Sexual orientation

Whilst great steps have been taken in reducing and eliminating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, there remains significant social and cultural barriers to those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. The risk to any student whilst on placement should be identified through the Risk Assessment Process and again the preparation in establishing the ability of a placement provider to support the placement should pay heed to this. In particular some oversees placements may be of greater risk due to cultural and government views of same sex relationships. The preparation of the student should reflect any concerns.

5. In summary

The guidance has in place mechanisms for identifying risk related to the protected characteristics and combined with the thorough preparation of both the placement holder and the placement, should ensure there is minimal detrimental impact. However there should also be a robust training/ guidance for the placement manager to ensure they fully understand the risks related to equality and the responsibilities of the University.