Why do we screen
In line with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the University is required to ensure that its policies are reviewed to assess their likely impact on equality of opportunity and good relations on specific groups of people (i.e. the Section 75 categories).
This review is called equality screening.
Screening ensures that equality of opportunity and good relations are central to policy decision-making and service provision (i.e. equality is ‘mainstreamed’).
Screening provides evidence that the policy owner has paid ‘due regard’ to the promotion of equality of opportunity and ‘regard’ to the desirability of promoting good relations during policy development and review. Screening helps the policy owner to develop a better policy.
The policy owner is responsible for equality screening.
Staff within the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit are responsible for supporting the policy owner to complete the equality screening pro forma and facilitating its inclusion in a public policy screening consultation exercise.
When to screen
Screening must be considered before and at the time that a policy is being considered, and not afterwards.
In practical terms, this means that if you are beginning to revise an existing policy or commence the creation of a new policy, you must begin the equality screening process at that time and continue to focus on the screen as you develop the policy.
How to screen
The University’s Policy Screening Protocol sets out the steps that a policy owner should take during equality screening.
The policy owner should complete an Equality Screening Pro forma as the policy is being developed or reviewed.
The pro forma has been developed using the template from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) to ensure that all policies are reviewed systematically and consistently.
The screening protocol and pro forma are both available for staff by contacting the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Unit.
Equality screening decisions
During policy screening, the impacts associated with a policy are assessed using relevant quantitative or qualitative data.
These data provide evidence to inform the screening decision.
The screening decision may be that the policy is ‘screened in’ for a full equality impact assessment (EQIA) or that a full EQIA is not required (i.e. it is ‘screened out’), either because there are no equality implications identified during screening or because if there are, these can be mitigated. Mitigation could mean introducing an alternative policy or amending the policy so that it better promotes equality of opportunity and/or good relations.
Equality impact assessment
The Equality Commission recommends that, once a policy is screened and if it has a major potential to impact on equality of opportunity and good relations, then it should be subjected to an equality impact assessment (EQIA).
An EQIA is a thorough and systematic analysis of a policy that is carried out in accordance with the ECNI’s Guidance for Implementing Section 75 of the NI Act 1998 and its Practical Guidance on Equality Impact Assessment. This sets out a seven-step procedure for conducting an EQIA.
Consultation enables an assessment to be made of the views of those who are affected by policy decisions or by the design of services. It can help the University to become aware of issues and problems which policies may pose for various individuals or groups and which it might not otherwise discover.
Consultation provides an important means of enabling those who may be adversely affected by a policy to participate in the process of policy making.
The University consults publicly on its screening decisions relating to new and revised policies twice a year (as appropriate) and on its EQIAs, in accordance with the principles contained in the ECNI’s guidance on implementing Section 75.
Screening consultation does not need to stop / slow the implementation of a policy, however, should any substantive feedback be received from consultees the policy may need to be amended accordingly.
The University reports on its equality screening exercises within its Section 75 Annual Progress Report.
Further advice and guidance
If you require advice on the equality screening process, please contact a member of staff in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has developed the following guidance on equality screening: