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Equal at Work: access to employment through open HR systems

The “Equal at Work” labour market programme was the DEP project which achieved greatest impact in 2004-07 and led to several very major and radical mainstreaming outcomes. It’s theme was “Increasing access to employment through open HR practices” and it focused on reforming and changing HR policies and practice to create a more equal and equitable labour market. It was Dublin-wide, with a range of fourteen projects across the public, private and community sectors workplaceThe initiative, funded under the EU Equal Initiative and co-funded by the Irish Government, involved over 60 partner organisations from the public, private and community sectors. These included four local authorities, seven area partnerships, various social partner organisations, seven hospitals and health service agencies, six major employers, twenty community and voluntary sector organisations, various training institutions, representative organisations etc. The two rounds involved a total budget of approx. €3.4m, of which 70% was provided by ESF and the balance from public and private sector sources, and also input from the Local Development Programme. A comprehensive analysis of the fifteen projects implemented under Equal at Work across the public, private and community sectors was published at the end of the project as Equal At Work: Building an Irish labour market based on equality and diversity and the programme was also featured in a special supplement in The Irish Times. In 2008 several follow on aspects of the project continued to impact.

Actions in 2008-10

  • The project Pathways to Employment for Members of the Travelling Community in South Dublin County Council was mainstreamed as a council system and also spread to other local authorities and endorsed by the National Policy Group on Travellers.
  • Work in the development of the community sector to improve employment and HR conditions led to the establishment of strong community sector branches in SIPTU and IMPACT. It also led to the establishment of the Community Sector Employers’ Forum (CSEF) (supported by IBEC, SFA and, The Wheel), and the development throughout 2008 of the Employers Resource Bureau, an online HR resource base. The CSEF has since developed as a separate company.
  • In January 2009 Equal at Work was selected as key case study in the evaluation by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment of the EQUAL initiative in Ireland.
  • The partnership structure of Equal at Work was selected by an EU report as a model of its kind and was presented at a Commission conference in Lisbon.
  • A joint proposal of DEP and the HR section of HSE was prepared and submitted to HSE. Budget cutbacks meant the proposed project had to be shelved.
  • A project on Human Trafficking arising from work under Equal was developed by DEP and the Immigrant Council of Ireland and submitted to the EU Daphne Programme. This was approved for commencement in November as the Dignity project.
  • This project is now being rolled out with DEP as the lead agency, and partners from the Immigrant Council, the Gardai, the Women’s Health Project, Ruhamma, Sonas Housing, the Dept. Justice and others).
  • A proposal around Jobrotation as a possible tool for ”activation”, also arising from Equal, led to a workshop in DEP on 31st January 2008 attended by FÁS, Northside Partnership, Dept. ETE, WRC and others, with a paper presented by British JR expert David Ethrington (Middlesex University). A project proposal – Learning and Working - was developed and submitted to Minister Mary Coughlan T.D. in 2009.