'I want a Foreign Office that shows to the world the true face of modern Britain. I can only do that if I have a Foreign Office staff which is representative of that modern Britain.'
- The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, addressing the British Asian community in West London, July 2000.
The FCO now has a comprehensive diversity strategy. The proportion of minority ethnic staff continues to increase. 1,415 staff have now attended Managing Inclusion training, designed to help managers get the best out of their teams, both in the UK and overseas. Feedback has been very positive.
Five hearing staff gained the Stage 1 (GSCE equivalent) British Sign Language qualification in 2000, and are helping to create an environment in which hearing-impaired staff can maximise their potential. They also constitute a core of staff able to provide help to hearing-impaired customers.
In 1997, of the 22 Directors and Heads of Strategy Units in the UK, none were women. Now there are seven out of 20. In July 2000, the FCO appointed Melanie Allison, formerly National Campaigns Manager at Opportunity Now, as its Gender Diversity Adviser. Planning approval has been secured for a creche in the King Charles Street building, where priority for places will be given to the children of staff who might otherwise find it difficult to return to work, and to staff on lower incomes.
More flexible arrangements for Special Unpaid Leave have been introduced: it can now be taken for up to ten years for study/work outside the FCO and for family reasons. A new career break scheme has been introduced aimed at staff wishing to test themselves outside the FCO, often in the private sector. Internal procedures now allow officers to return to the FCO at a higher level if they can demonstrate the necessary competences.
The FCO continues its efforts to improve employment opportunities for spouses overseas, and is examining with the Diplomatic Service Families Association the possibility of subscribing, on the Association’s behalf, to an Internet-based international employment exchange.