Companies hoping to benefit from a £300m procurement bonanza when the government offers contracts to run its flagship New Deal programme will have to prove their commitment to workplace diversity.
The contracts to deliver the New Deal are up for renewal in July, when companies can pitch to offer training in language and basic skills as well as work placement schemes.
The New Deal, which is run through Jobcentre Plus, offers unemployed people a personal adviser and schemes to help them get back into work.
Employment minister, Margaret Hodge, warned that any company benefiting from procurement deals would have to be able to show that it is taking diversity seriously.
“Contracts will be awarded to those [companies] that monitor who they employ and offer appropriate opportunities to people from black and minority ethnic communities,” she said.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman explained: “This is to encourage employers to demonstrate good diversity and that their workforce reflects the community at large and makes use of all the talent on offer.”
The move reflects a growing trend in both public and private sectors of employers trying to make sure their suppliers and partners have a workforce that is representative of the communities they serve.
In February, Barclays bank said it would require its legal advisers to provide diversity statistics.
But Warren Wayne, partner at law firm Bird & Bird, warned bidders against rushing into improving diversity at the last minute.
“Boosting diversity by taking on candidates who might not have otherwise got the job, can’t be what the government wants. It could lead to service and quality issues, as well as exposing bidders to claims for unlawful positive discrimination,” he said.
Earlier this month, Avon and Somerset Police reportedly paid 25,000 to a white man it dropped from its re-cruitment process in a bid to boost the number of recruits from ethnic minorities.
Refugees in employment
Last week, employment minister, Margaret Hodge, revealed that Jobcentre Plus staff would be given added incentives to get refugees into work – a year after the government launched its refugee employment strategy, Working to Rebuild Lives.
Under new plans Jobcentre staff performance will be judged on their success getting the 10,000 economic refugees who enter the UK each year into work.