Unions are stepping up recruitment activities targeted at female, black, disabled, LGBT and young workers, according to the TUC Equality Audit 2011 published.

The biennial Equality Audit this year focuses on unions’ internal activities – how they are building equality into their rules and structures, organising activities, membership services and employment practices.

The audit shows that more unions are carrying out targeted recruitment campaigns. Between 2007 and 2011, the proportion of recruitment campaigns targeted at young people increased from 29 per cent to 48 per cent. With one in five young people currently out of work, and future job prospects looking bleak, it’s important that unions give young people support in getting in to work, as well as giving them a voice in the workplace, says the TUC.

The proportion of unions running campaigns targeted at women has increased from 38 per cent in 2007 to 48 per cent in 2011. Unions have also campaigned on issues of particular interest to women, for example USDAW’s campaign to support parents and carers, and Equity’s campaign against the discrimination experienced by older women as performers on stage and screen.

The majority of unions now have an equality officer at a national level, while around one in four unions now have separate officers for women (27 per cent), black members (27 per cent) and disabled members (25 per cent). One in five unions have an officer for LGBT members (19 per cent) while 23 per cent have a young person’s officer.

Around two in five unions (42 per cent) now have branch or workplace equality reps, up from 35 per cent in 2007. The TUC has now trained hundreds of equality reps, who are helping thousands of staff with issues such as flexible working requests. Progress in making workplaces more family friendly could be improved if equality reps had statutory recognition, as other types of union reps have, says the TUC.

This year’s Equality Audit was completed by 48 of the TUC’s 55 affiliated unions, who represent 97 per cent of TUC membership.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Young people were the hardest hit by the recession and female unemployment is at a 23-year high, so it’s important that unions support them both in finding work and preventing future job losses.

‘It’s encouraging that unions are stepping up their recruitment efforts among minority groups, as they are often the most vulnerable to workplace exploitation and job losses.

‘But unions are not just about protecting people’s jobs, important though that is, and it’s great to see the growing army of equality reps making a positive difference to workplaces.

‘If the government is seriously committed to making workplaces more family-friendly, ministers should give statutory recognition to reps who are leading the way in helping workers across the country access flexible working.’