Equality Rep - FAQs

What is an Equality Rep?

An Equality Rep is a union representative whose priority it is to proactively promote equality and diversity, inform their union and their employer on the facts relevant to their context, and to keep equality and diversity firmly on the agenda in negotiations and activities. Equality Reps play an advisory role to members around equality issues, and are often instrumental in shaping workplace policy and practice.

Why do we need Equality Reps?

Equality Reps are an important tool for unions to continue their role in promoting equality and diversity. Essentially, they develop the moral argument for being a more inclusive and diverse workplace. The presence of Equality Reps increases the likelihood of people speaking up about inequalities, which then encourages employers to respond to these issues, improving equality practices to prevent issues re-emerging.

Equality Reps are critical in terms of Fair Work. The Scottish Government has made clear its ambition for Scotland to be a leading nation in Fair Work by 2025. If we are to achieve this, then we must support the role of Equality Rep and be proactive in achieving greater equality.

Aren’t all reps Equality Reps?

While all reps should care about equality and diversity, that doesn’t mean all reps have the skills to be able to advise members on issues around equality. Each union approaches the role of Equality Rep differently, however. In some unions, the role of Equality Rep is a stand-alone role taken by someone who has a keen interest in equality and diversity. In other unions, the role of Equality Rep may be split with other union responsibilities (Shop Stewards, Health and Safety Reps or Union Learning Reps). Reps that take on multiple union responsibilities are sometimes referred to as ‘hybrid reps’. In fact, 85% of Equality Reps in England and Wales are claimed to be ‘hybrid reps’.

How many Equality Reps are there?

Currently, there has been no formal evaluation of the number of Equality Reps in Scotland.

What are some barriers faced by Equality Reps?

Equality Reps are faced with a number of challenges which can impact the effectiveness of their role. The main barrier faced by Equality Reps is that they do not have the right to statutory release to fulfil their duties. This differentiates Equality Reps from other reps, such as Health and Safety Reps or Shop Stewards.

In our equalities survey that was circulated in Spring 2019, over two-thirds of respondents claimed having no statutory release as the biggest barrier to their work as an Equality Rep.

Because there is no statutory release, many employers do not take the role of Equality Rep seriously, and this was noted as being a significant barrier to the work of Equality Reps. Similarly, because each union approaches the role of Equality Rep differently, many reps feel as though there is a lack of support for their role.

How do I become an Equality Rep?

If you wish to become an Equality Rep, contact your union or TUC Education to find out about training opportunities.

How can I make suggestions or feedback?

If you have any suggestions, please email Denise Christie.

To hear from active Equality Reps, please read our case studies - available to download from the 'Related resources' panel on this page.