Reports of discrimination at SFA double in a year

Reports of discrimination at SFA double in a year

Levels of reported discrimination in a key FE government agency have doubled in a year, an annual staff survey has revealed.

Ten per cent of respondents from the Skills Funding Agency to this year’s Civil Service People Survey said they had personally experienced discrimination at work in the previous 12 months.

This compares with just five per cent of respondents to the same question in last year’s survey.

The findings sparked alarm from the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents staff at the SFA.

A spokesperson for the union said: “It’s very concerning that more people are reporting discrimination and the fact it is principally by grade and responsibility suggests a troubling management culture.”

He also highlighted a number of other areas that scored badly in the survey, including how change is being managed, pride in the agency and confidence that effective action is being taken.

“There are some serious issues for senior managers to address as a matter of urgency,” he said.

As reported by FE Week in June, staff anger over pay grade changes at the SFA had raised the spectre of strike action.

Staff were understood to be unhappy about the move from the SFA’s previous pay grading structure to civil service pay grades used across government, with some workers finding themselves on lower grades than they had been expecting.

This year’s Civil Service People Survey was the eighth such annual survey, and was carried out across 98 civil service organisations from October 3 to 31.

It asked staff for their views on a range of issues, including workload, leadership, pay and benefits, and inclusion and fair treatment.

One of the questions asked: “During the past 12 months have you personally experienced discrimination at work?”

The median response to this question across the civil service as a whole was 12 per cent, up one per cent from last year’s survey.

The Department for Education scored slightly higher than the SFA on this question, with 11 per cent of staff saying they had experienced discrimination at work.

The SFA’s survey results were based on the responses from 574 members of staff, representing 89 per cent of its workforce.

This is down from 762 responses last year, which represented 84 per cent of SFA staff.

Staff were more upbeat about leadership at the agency this year than they were in 2015, with positive responses to questions on the topic up by an average of three per cent. 

And questions on organisational objectives and purpose received an 86 per cent positive score – up from 80 per cent in 2015.

The question with the biggest increase in score was “There are opportunities for me to develop my career in the Skills Funding Agency”, which went up by 15 per cent to 40 per cent positive.

An SFA spokesperson said: “We take the results of the People Survey very seriously and will act upon them. We have completed a year-long change programme and are working closely with our staff.”