Equality and diversity procedure

How to apply our Equality and diversity policy

Approved: 22 June 2022
Version: 1
Content owner: Inclusion

This procedure explains how to apply our Equality and diversity policy and what we expect from our volunteers and adult members. It also explains what you can expect from Girlguiding. 

This procedure is for volunteers. Girlguiding employees should use the staff procedure on the intranet. 

What do we expect from our volunteers and adult members? 

We expect our volunteers and adult members to follow our Code of Conduct and our Promise. And everyone in Girlguiding should live by our values. If you’re doing this, you’re already part of the way to following our Equality and diversity policy! 

You should provide a warm, friendly and inclusive environment for everyone you work with at Girlguiding. This means making all young members and volunteers feel welcome and free to be themselves. Whoever they are and wherever they’re from. 

Recognising differences and making changes and adjustments so Girlguiding is a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone is a really important part of our Equality and Diversity policy. 

You won’t always know that someone could benefit from being treated differently. But you can create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their needs with you when the time is right for them.  

It’s also your responsibility to report any inappropriate behaviour which may breach our policy. We’re here to support volunteers, adult members and parents or carers to raise concerns and challenge discrimination, whatever form it takes.  

You can find out more about promoting equality and diversity further down this page, and through our e-learnings and webinars. 

How do I recognise and respond to policy breaches?  

We don’t expect our volunteers to be experts on different types of discrimination. And we know you might not always be certain if someone’s behaviour has breached this policy.  

The most important thing is to never ignore any inappropriate behaviour. If you notice inappropriate behaviour from anyone involved with Girlguiding, you have a responsibility to act. That’s the case no matter what policy they may be breaching. For example, some behaviour may go against our Code of Conduct or our Anti-bullying and harassment policy, but not be an equality or diversity issue.  

You may feel comfortable speaking directly to the person involved about why their behaviour wasn’t OK – for example explaining why their choice of language wasn’t inclusive. In other situations, you may prefer to raise your concern with your local commissioner. They can then speak to the person, or get in touch with our Safe Practice department for advice on how to deal with the issue. 

If you can’t resolve the issue locally with an open and honest conversation, and the person or people involved recognising the harm they’ve caused, you must report the situation to our Safe practice department. 

Our Safe Practice department will provide advice on the best way forward. This may include providing support so that an informal resolution can be reached. If this is not appropriate, a formal investigation may be needed. 

They’ll do a formal investigation if:  

  • They need more information or evidence about what happened 
  • There may have been a serious breach of our policies and procedures  

Some examples of the types of policy breaches you may need to report to our Safe practice department include: 

  • A mother asks about her daughter joining a local unit after seeing spaces have become available. But the leader tells her that because her daughter is Black, she wouldn’t be a ‘good fit’. This is a serious breach of our policy and Safe practice will need to start a formal investigation.  
  • A trans woman joins Girlguiding as a volunteer. Each time she comes to a unit meeting, her leader deliberately uses an incorrect name and pronouns. Again, this is a serious breach of our policy and Safe practice will need to start a formal investigation. Find out more about supporting trans volunteers and trans young members.   
  • A local leader meets a commissioner for the first time. The commissioner asks the leader where she’s from. The volunteer says she grew up in the county and used to be a member of the unit she now volunteers with. The commissioner is surprised by this, and asks ‘but where are you really from?’ The volunteer understands that the commissioner didn’t mean to be offensive or malicious, but notes that the commissioner didn’t ask anyone else that question. This is likely to make the volunteer feel uncomfortable and is an example of a racial microaggression. You may not need to report it to Safe practice if someone raises it with the commissioner and she recognises the harm caused. You can learn about microaggressions in our Including all e-learning.
  • A local leader refuses to let a young member with a learning disability read the Promise, saying she needs to memorise it. She says we need to treat everyone the same. This is an example of failing to make reasonable adjustments. You may not need to report it to Safe Practice if someone talks to the local leader and she takes on board the need to be flexible. Find out more about making reasonable adjustments.

No incident is too minor to report to our Safe practice department. If you have any concerns please get in touch. Even something that seems small can have a negative impact on the people involved. It’s important that everyone gets the support they need. 

Inappropriate behaviour can also take the form of lots of seemingly small incidents. If the person involved doesn’t improve their behaviour after someone talks to them about it, you should report the situation to Safe practice.  

If anyone involved with Girlguiding is concerned about a possible breach of our Equality and diversity policy, and you can’t deal with it locally, you must support them to make a report. You could also do this on their behalf. You need to support them even if you don’t agree with their interpretation of the incident or issue.  

What happens next? 

A member of our Safe practice department will review the information and decide which teams should look into the concern.  

This could be our Complaints and compliance team or our Safeguarding team. Safe practice will also let our Inclusion and diversity team know, and they will give advice on next steps.  

Once the right team has your concern, they’ll contact you to get more information. The team will also give you details about what will happen next. This should happen within 5 to 7 working days.  

If you’ve reported an incident that you witnessed, but weren’t involved in, we might need to get consent from the person experiencing the behaviour before we can look into it.  

How does Girlguiding manage policy breaches? 

We take every breach of our Equality and diversity policy seriously, particularly as some breaches may break the law. We take clear and strong action to manage breaches, guided by our Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy and procedure. 

We’ll support anyone who raises a concern or challenges discrimination. No one who tries to promote equality or challenge discrimination should be treated negatively.   

If our Safe practice department is dealing with a concern, we’ll carry out a thorough investigation using our Investigation procedure. This will help us gather details of the incident or concern and recommend the right response.  

If we find that discrimination has happened, we’ll take action to put this right. We may put a sanction on a volunteer’s record, as detailed in our Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy and our Safeguarding policy. Our sanctions can include a written warning or temporarily suspending a volunteer, for example. We may also state that additional training must be carried out to improve knowledge and understanding. If a volunteer doesn’t take part in our investigation process or accept that their behaviour has breached our policy, we may withdraw their membership. 

Sometimes, we might need to refer the case to a statutory agency like the police or social services. If this is necessary, we’ll manage the case using our Safeguarding policy and procedure.  

If we find out that an allegation or report is malicious, the volunteer who made it may face sanctions.   

If a staff member’s behaviour breaches our Equality and diversity policy, we’ll use our staff disciplinary procedure to deal with this.  

How can I promote equality and diversity? 

Sometimes you may need to treat people differently to give them equal access to opportunities. This is known as ‘equity’ and is a way of achieving equality. The image on the left shows equality and the image on the right shows equity.

Some examples of treating people differently to promote equality and diversity include: 

  • Making adjustments for a disabled young member so they can take part fully in an activity. 
  • Recognising that some families may not be able to afford a new uniform. Encouraging girls to borrow or reuse uniforms, or having a spare set available at your unit meeting place can help make sure no one is excluded from Girlguiding. 
  • Completing an adjustment plan with an adult member with mental health problems, and not expecting them to come to every unit meeting if they aren’t feeling up to it. 
  • Recognising that some young members may behave in a challenging way because they find it difficult to communicate their needs. You might ask other girls to be quiet if they’re being too loud or not listening to instructions. But this might not be appropriate for a young member with additional needs. We have a great visual timetable resource and set of communication passports you can use with an adjustment plan to help everyone understand instructions. 
  • Being flexible about arrival and leaving times for young and adult carers. 
  • Providing alternative options for activities involving food for people with dietary requirements. 
  • Considering religious beliefs, practices and celebrations when you’re planning activities and trips. And making changes so no one is excluded because of their religious background. For example, you could offer a space for prayer or meditation on a residential. 

If you’re not sure what someone’s needs are, or what barriers they might be facing, the best way to find out is to ask. Our adjustment plans are a great starting point for a conversation with both young members and volunteers. 

You can find out more about making sure all members feel supported and involved on our Including all webpages.