Equalities tsar Trevor Phillips says HR must be stripped of diversity role

Diversity must be taken away from HR, equalities tsar Trevor Phillips has insisted.

The chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), which will be officially launched on 1 October, said that with globalisation and changing populations, employers needed to ensure that all staff – not just those in HR – take responsibility for diversity.

Specialist practitioners should work outside existing departments to embrace diversity across an organisation’s workforce, products and services, and this was “no longer the sole province of HR”, said Phillips.

He told Personnel Today: “Diversity practitioners could monitor diversity practices, or act as internal consultants, to involve every department, including HR.

“Most organisations are beginning to realise they need a better understanding of how to deal with difference in a whole range of departments, which is why diversity is coming out of HR,” he added.

Senior HR diversity practitioners agreed with Phillips that diversity was too big a job to stay in the HR function for long.

Npower diversity and inclusion head Nick Smith said: “When diversity sits in HR there will be some people who shrug their shoulders and say ‘it is just another HR initiative’.”

Mary Shaw, head of equality and diversity at the Ministry of Justice, agreed.

“Diversity is not just about staff it is also externalfacing and about how an organisation supports diversity and equality, and also the way it runs its business,” she said.

However, Julie Dennis, head of diversity at the Land Registry, said that while diversity should be a business-wide concern, keeping it in HR would give it more short-term credibility.

And the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) warned of the potential pitfalls in creating a new function.

CIPD diversity adviser Dianah Worman said: “The challenge is about what kind of people become specialists. One of the problems in having a separate specialism is getting everyone on board.”

CIPD says new diversity body would be ‘too much too soon’

The CIPD has warned against a “gung-ho” approach to setting up a new professional body for diversity practitioners.

Learning and Skills Council (LSC) research found that 80% of 1,500 practitioners wanted a new association to help standardise the profession, accredit diversity qualifications, and map out proper career paths for practitioners.

The LSC will put the findings of the report, backed by CEHR chairman Trevor Phillips, to government policy makers later this year.

But CIPD diversity adviser Dianah Worman told Personnel Today: “Creating a new body for diversity is naïve, and too much too soon.” She said forming a new association would be a “gung-ho approach” and more research was required.

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