HR Doctor - "That equality stuff"
Doctor Steve Cave highlights the importance of having an Equality
Policy in your organisation and provides details on the Equality
Act that will come into place in October 2010.
I was driving to work last week when my phone rang. It is always
tempting to answer it, but I resisted the temptation! The same
cannot be said of a woman at the next roundabout who was driving
and chatting away on the phone and even found time to mouth
obscenities at me.
The message on my phone was from a friend of mine who runs a
small engineering business. He remains a friend despite him not
sharing my passion for equality and diversity, and after several
arguments when he has attempted to make a racist statement by
stating the he is 'not a racist but' before making the statement.
Interesting that men do not say that before making a sexist
statement, but this is the North East!
His message was to ring him as he needs my help with "that
equality stuff". I was tempted to ignore him but was intrigued and
I guess secretly hoping that he had got into trouble and now needed
my help to get him out of trouble. The last time we had discussed
equality was when his wife had objected vehemently to being
referred to as "wor lass" and he could not understand why and
suggested that it was somehow my fault.
When I did speak to him he explained that he was trying to get a
contract with the Council and he had to send his Equality Policy,
and could I send him one. This is a request I get about once a
month. I sarcastically asked him why he did not send his, and his
reply was not very pleasant!
Before I stereotype engineers further and breach my own
standards, let me explain what happens when employers seek to win
contracts with the public sector: Most public sector organisations
will require suppliers to show that they as a minimum comply with
equality legislation (my experience is that many employers do not)
and that potential suppliers take equality seriously. Many public
sector organisations expect that potential suppliers will meet the
same standards that apply to the public sector. Standards in the
public sector are more stringent than the private sector, for
example public sector bodies currently have three equality duties
covering disability, gender and race. The duties do not apply to
the private sector but potential suppliers will be looked on
favourably if they understand and adopt some of the duties, for
example have an equality action plan.
I asked him how diverse his workforce was, and explained that
this may be a question he is asked. He flippantly replied that he
had both Sunderland and Newcastle supporters! Fortunately he
employs only 18 people so I suggested that he should carry out some
monitoring and know the make up of his work force with regard to
race, gender, age, disability and religion or belief for example.
He could also of course include sexual orientation and transgender.
Most of the monitoring information he actually knew when he thought
about it, with the exception of sexual orientation and
The Equality Act which comes into force in October 2010 includes
legislation on procurement and seeks to ensure that companies
winning public sector contracts meet equality standards. The
current situation will differ from each public sector body, with in
general the public sector bodies who deal with education having the
highest possible standards and other public bodies only requiring
the minimum, which would be having an equality policy, a
recruitment policy and some monitoring.
I sent him an Equality Policy and some instructions on
monitoring etc. He did not get the contract but did get some good
feedback and guidance on what he needed to do in future. Most of
which he has asked me to do!
The Equality Act includes a number of changes to legislation and
comes into effect over the next two years starting in October. One
interesting aspect will be to see if the government applies its
commitment of "one law in, one law out". I have to admit that I
struggle to think of any employment law that I would suggest is
scrapped. I was listening recently whilst driving to a phone in on
the radio in which people were suggesting laws that should be
scrapped. Many of the suggestions were for "laws" that did not
exist, for example an employer that said you could not contact an
employee who was on maternity leave! Of course you can and indeed
it is good practice to keep in touch. Most of the other suggestions
were either ridiculous or would mean us leaving the European
My challenge to you this edition is to suggest which employment
laws should be scrapped and why. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org