Call for HR to take lead in stamping out racism

Senior HR directors have called for the profession to take the lead in eliminating racism, which is still rife in UK companies.

Francesca Okosi, HR director for the London Borough of Brent, called for practitioners to “lead by example” and allow more ethnic minority personnel officers to rise to the top of the profession.

And HR director for London Underground Ann Burfutt added, “As far as HR is concerned it is no different from any other profession. HR people certainly are not angels but I would expect them to do a bit of leading from the front.”

The comments come after a report by the TUC last week found alarming evidence of racist abuse, violence and discrimination across the nation’s labour market.

The Root Out Racism hotline ran for five days in June and was dedicated to dealing with issues of racism at work. Nearly 450 callers reported incidents of discriminatory employment procedures as well as racist verbal and physical abuse.

The campaign uncovered evidence suggesting there is a “glass ceiling” preventing black and Asian employees gaining promotions in some City companies.

Okosi said the ethnic mix of top-level HR professionals needs to change to reflect the social make-up.

“Certainly in government there are not many ethnic minority people working at personnel director level. But there are a fair number of black and Asian personnel officers – the issue is about how many of them can move up the ladder.

“HR has a leading role to play in changing company culture and this should be demonstrated in the content of existing staff.”

Burfutt said promoting racial equality was central to creating good customer service.

“Employers and HR have to realise the importance of racial equality – they should do something and do it fast,” she said.

Office of National Statistics for winter 1999 show that only 16 per cent of black men are in managerial positions, compared with 23 per cent of white men.


Bill to put pressure on employers

A new bill set to come into force later this year will add weight to the UK’s anti-discrimination laws.

The Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, which has all-party support, is scheduled for introduction after Parliament resumes in the autumn.

Should it become law – which seems likely – the Bill will mean public authorities are obliged to review their practices to ensure they are not discriminatory.

It will empower claimants to sue employers on the grounds of injury to feelings and financial losses.

The Bill will also allow the Commission for Racial Equality to issue notices of compliance to public authorities which are not adequately promoting racial equality.

Under the outlined legislation – produced in response to the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case – the CRE will also have the power to take action against public authorities through the county courts should they not comply with notices.

The Bill is currently at report stage in the House of Commons and looks likely to become law by the end of this Parliamentary year.

A spokesman for the CRE said the Bill will put pressure on private employers to prevent workplace racism.

“There will be more pressure at every level – every employee in the country has a right to expect fair treatment at work,” he said.

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