Employers call for a fresh vision for single equality body

Feb 24 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the Employers Forum on Age (EFA), are urging the Government to be radical when it comes to the formation of a new single equality body.

Responding to government proposals for amalgamating the three commissions that currently tackle discrimination, the EFA and the CIPD argue that tabled proposals are too close to the current set up and need to go much further.

Dianah Worman, CIPD Advisor on Diversity says: "We have talked to our members about the plans outlined. In our view the Government needs to be much more radical about delivering on equality and set up a structure capable of doing this in the longer term.

"Any new single commission should be more than an amalgamation of the existing commissions plus strands such as age, religion and sexual orientation. It should play a pivotal role in awareness raising and education."

Sam Mercer, Campaign Director for the EFA says: "There is a real opportunity to make fundamental changes in how we promote and deliver equality in the UK. So far Government hasn't risen to this challenge. Employers have mixed experiences with the current commissions; they want something new and visionary.

"The Government needs to articulate its 'vision' and be clear on what it is trying to achieve. Until this is clear, we cannot possibly design structures for delivery. A much more detailed proposal needs to be drawn up before employers can effectively comment on Government plans."

Currently employers in the vanguard of diversity practice do not feel they get enough credit for the significant investments they make in progressing diversity and the constraints they face in pursuing change across the broad spectrum of diversity issues.

Says Worman; "Some feel the more they do, the more they raise expectations and become vulnerable to attack when progress is not delivered on all diversity fronts. This is not a good recipe for engaging employers."

Sam Mercer says: "Employers are seeking a new and flexible approach to diversity, based on a clear understanding of the practical constraints they work under. They are looking for a new body to recognise and understand the realities faced by business'.

Both the CIPD and the EFA recognise that it is critical we get the role and purpose of a future new single commission right.

Says Worman; "This is a great opportunity to create a new vision for the future. What we want to avoid is the formation of a monolith that stifles rather than promotes progress because we have been too complacent.

Mercer agrees: "Whilst this is a process that shouldn't be rushed, Government can't keep employers dangling, what we need is a clear timetable. Meanwhile Government needs to work with employers to ensure we create a SEB that really delivers on equality and diversity in the future."