Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Our work impacts on people, communities and the environment.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is vital to everything we do, but we know that it will take time to fully embed EDI in Ofwat. We’re not as diverse as we want to be, but we’ve come a long way and we’ve got a plan to get there.

At Ofwat, everyone is empowered to thrive, irrespective of their background, age, gender, location, socio-economic background, ethnicity/race, religion/belief, marital or civil partnership status, sexual orientation, disability, or neurodivergent condition.

“We make better decisions by listening to different perspectives, but we also know that people have different preferences in how to engage and contribute. It’s therefore really important to me that we embrace techniques that are inclusive and allow every voice to be heard. We strive to be curious in this and actively explore new ways to be the best we can together.”

Paul Hickey – Managing Director Rapid

EDI at Ofwat

Being Ourselves: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

In everything we do, we make sure people feel comfortable to be who they are at Ofwat. Everybody has different backgrounds, identities, perspectives, and lived experiences – and we value what makes you you.

We are actively committed to EDI at Ofwat. It’s part of our identity and core values. We want Ofwat and the sector to reflect the communities we serve.

We’re not as diverse as we want to be yet – but we are working hard. Here are some examples of things that we’re doing to make Ofwat a more diverse organisation:

  • Championing EDI values from the top down. Our leaders live the values by listening to and learning from employees, collecting and analysing data. Then making changes based on the data.
  • Acting upon feedback from our people and our communities to ensure we know where our challenges lie and what we’ll do to address them.
  • Striving to build leadership teams that are more diverse and representative of our workforce and our communities.
  • Consciously shaping our recruitment practices for greater diversity. We select for interview via blind sifting, where all identifying information is removed from applications, and we participate in the Disability Confident Employer scheme. We strive to eliminate biased language from our adverts and have adapted our practice to include transparent interviews.

These are just a few of the things we’re doing to make Ofwat a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable organisation. You can read more about what we’re doing, including our Tiny Talks and Elephant in the Room initiatives.

Inclusive hiring

Our recruitment process is governed by the Civil Service Commission and appointments are made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. We will assess your skills, experience and knowledge as well as relevant attributes and we’ll give you the best opportunity to showcase these.

We are committed to being an inclusive employer and there a number of initiatives we have implemented to enhance our hiring process. We conduct “blind sifting” and remove all personal details from candidate applications to eliminate bias. Our interviews are transparent, and candidates get to see some of the interview questions in advance. Many people find this helps them to better showcase their skills, in particular neurodiverse candidates. We also are a disability confident employer – you can read more about the Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) here. We don’t do many interviews in person, but our offices are completely accessible.

If you would like us to make reasonable adjustments at any point throughout the process, just let us know. We’ll work collaboratively with you to understand which reasonable adjustments would be beneficial and tailor things accordingly.

Here are a few examples of reasonable adjustments that we’ve made for candidates: gave additional time for a written assessment during an interview; changed the interview format for somebody who was visually impaired; posted the interview questions in the Teams chat for somebody who had difficulty hearing.

If there’s anything you think we could be doing to be more inclusive, please get in touch [email protected].

Meet some of our team

Ofwat colleague quote: "Ofwat is a very values-driven organisation. In the work that I do here, I can really live those values and help to use them to improve services for the public."

Chris Walters, Senior Director for the Price Review/EDI Champion

We sat down with Chris to discuss what drives him in his work, diversity in the recruitment process and his role as EDI Champion at Ofwat.

You’re Ofwat’s EDI Champion – what does that involve?
I volunteered as EDI Champion because I know how important equality, diversity, and inclusion are to Ofwat, and they are to me personally as well. I’m responsible for improving equality, diversity, and inclusion at Ofwat. It’s self-evident that treating each other fairly is the right thing to do. But, it’s also ultimately about supporting and empowering underrepresented groups. Another benefit of bringing together different perspectives, lived experiences, talents, contributions, backgrounds, and identities is that you also get better, more innovative problem-solving and decision-making.

I’m also responsible for making sure that everyone feels empowered to have their say and that every voice is heard. When you do that, you generate respect for each other which creates a positive and collaborative working culture. That absolutely mirrors my experience of working at Ofwat. It’s an organisation that really lives its values. I’ve worked in organisations that have had very aspirational values in the past. But not only are Ofwat’s values aspirational, they really reflect what it feels like to work here.

I think that’s reflected in the positive results that Ofwat has had in the Civil Service Survey, where 86% of people who work here say that they feel valued and treated fairly. That’s something I’m really proud of but also determined to improve.

How do you help to increase diversity in the recruitment process?
We have a transparent recruiting process where candidates get to see some of the questions ahead of interview. By giving people the interview questions in advance, we’ve found that we can get to know who they are without making them feel like we’re putting them ‘on the spot’. Our recruiting managers can’t see any identifying information about candidates when they’re processing applications either.

In addition. we’ve dialled up the focus on ensuring our early careers talent pipelines are diverse through a range of measures including targeting a broader range of universities for our graduate programme and targeting under-represented groups with the advertising campaigns for our newly introduced Degree Apprenticeships to provide opportunities for greater social mobility. Now, there’s no limit to our ambition to improve those further, but we’re really proud about the progress that we’re making.

What motivates you to work at Ofwat?
There are four personal drivers for me that really motivate me to work here. I’m a product of social mobility – my parents were the children of Irish immigrants. I grew up in London and went to a comprehensive school. I benefitted from things that my parents couldn’t benefit from. That really drew me towards public service as a tool of social justice. I’ve worked in public service my whole career.

I’m also very proud of my background in economics. Growing up in North London, the 1980s was a decade bookended by two deep recessions and I saw how those recessions affected my friends and my family differently. It made me determined to understand how that can happen, how the economy can work better for some people than for others and to do something about it – to try and level the playing field.

I’m also ambitious. I like a challenge. I nearly died in a car accident when I was 17. Since then, I’ve sought out big challenges to help improve social justice and working at Ofwat is an opportunity to bring all those things together and really bring all of me to work to help do what needs to be done.

Ofwat supports me by providing a platform for me to be myself at work. I’m a very values-driven person, and Ofwat is a very values-driven organisation. In the work that I do here, I can really live those values and help to use them to improve services for the public.

At Ofwat, we’ll make sure you feel comfortable to be your whole self. Come and work at the source of everyday life.

Our approach

“Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is a key priority for Ofwat, which has the support and commitment of our Board, People Committee and Senior Leadership Team. Having personally been involved in creating and delivering on Ofwat’s first EDI strategy and action plan in July 2021, we have continued our journey to be more inclusive and create a culture where everyone can thrive regardless of their background and lived experiences. Whilst our internal focus on EDI must remain a key priority if we are to achieve an inclusive, equal, and fairer working environment where everyone can be themselves, we’ll also focus on EDI in our regulatory work. Ofwat has an important role to play in protecting customers and encouraging water companies to provide a service that is accessible and inclusive for everyone.”

Jasbir Bilen – Chief Operating Officer

Since launching our Being Ourselves strategy, we’ve been putting into place actions to make Ofwat a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organisation.

‘Tiny Talks’ is a series we run where colleagues spend five minutes talking about a topic or experience important to them (it could be about anything!), in front of an audience from across the organisation. They’re a great forum to enable colleagues to share experiences, including from an EDI angle, for example, one colleague spoke about the importance of pronouns as a trans person; another spoke about his Christian faith; another about the Sikh practice of providing food for the community. Everyone supports each other and contributes to educate each other.

We also run ‘Elephant in the Room’ workshops – these sessions are a brilliant way to create a safe space where people can feel able to talk about uncomfortable topics and ask questions about EDI issues.

We’ve also created the role of Being Ourselves Champions: ambassadors from across the organisation committed to role modelling EDI in Ofwat. They provide scrutiny and challenge of the action plan, and input ideas, support and enthusiasm to enable the successful delivery of the EDI strategy.

We’ve established several staff networks around protected characteristics and developed guidance to help people set up additional networks. We’ve also connected with networks in the wider Civil Service and within other regulators which our people can join.

We’ve also created a bespoke EDI learning and development programme, delivered unconscious bias training and set up a reverse mentoring programme between staff networks and senior leadership.

Awards, Accreditations and Partnerships

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