Part 3: When should you do an EIA?

  • Collection of clocks

The EIA should be carried out when a new policy / process / activity is planned or developed, or when an existing one is changed or reviewed. It is important to remember that EIA is an activity that should be part of the process not an exercise that can be carried out once the decision is made or policy developed. This helps to make sure that there is adequate time to make any adjustments identified in the EIA to ensure that the policy will be inclusive

An EIA applies to both strategic and operational activities, such as:

When do I need an EIA?

EIA is required when we make changes to how we do things or what we will do or provide relating to our core functions (e.g. teaching, research, employment) that will affect our colleagues, students, or service users.

In practice, this means it should take place for: strategies, major funding allocations, organisational change, service and system changes, policies, procedures, practices and activities, major plans and projects that:

  • Are new
  • Are being revised/changed or removed
  • Have had no previous EIA, the previous EIA is more than 5 years old, or is not fit for purpose

There are often ‘unwritten’ long-standing customs and practices, or new policies that gradually evolve without ever being formally set out and become ‘the way we do things here’. These can have equality impacts and should be identified and scheduled for EIA wherever possible.

EIA should take place at University, College, School/Department and Service level in line with the level at which the planning or decision-making process is taking place. It should only take place at College/School/Department/Service level, however, if the unit in question has control over the decision-making process or is making significant changes to something decided or designed at University-level.

EIA is not for day-to-day decision-making, it is for planning and more strategic decision-making. It is also not for making decisions about an individual – we wouldn’t use EIA to decide if a policy was discriminating against one person, but we would use it to design an inclusion policy from the outset, or to review and update a policy. 

Examples of what you will need an EIA for:

  • Any policy / process / activity that involves people (directly or indirectly); 
  • Strategies and strategic plans;
  • Major plans;
  • Any proposals to introduce or make significant changes to services or systems; 
  • Any changes to policies (e.g. amending a policy relating to staff recruitment);​
  • Any new policies (e.g. proposing a new student experience strategy);
  • Removing a policy / process / activity that involves people (directly or indirectly) (e.g. removing a student wellbeing reception desk);​
  • Procedures;
  • Guidance;
  • Codes of Conduct;
  • Organisational change (e.g. restructure, closure, major change to how a function is delivered);
  • Business cases for a major project;
  • Change to a provision or benefit (e.g. pensions);
  • Proposals in executive board/committee papers that would lead to any of the above.

What happens if I don’t do it when I should?

If we fail to do an EIA when we should, we risk making poor and unfair decisions which may discriminate against particular groups and worsen inequality. If the impact of our decisions on different groups is not considered, this may lead to avoidable poorer outcomes which bring additional financial burdens at a later stage. The decision, policy or approach may be open to legal challenge, which is costly and time-consuming. 

When should the EIA happen?

The EIA should happen as part of the planning or decision-making process so that it can inform the approach taken and decisions made.

This means it should happen early in the process, rather than at the end of the process. It should not be seen as a separate exercise to undertake, but should be built in as an integral part of the process and happen in tandem with it. Doing it this way also makes it easier to gather the information required as part of the process, e.g. through asking questions about equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) during any consultation activity you undertake. The EIA should be presented alongside the proposed strategy/policy/plan/change for approval so that the decision to go ahead or not can be made with knowledge of any EDI implications. It is not appropriate for a decision to be taken on the proviso that an EIA will be completed afterwards. 

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