Education must be at top of the CRE’s agenda

Race relations in the workplace would improve more quickly if the Commission for Racial Equality was less adversarial and more helpful, employers believe.

The CBI said last week that employers need support and advice to improve equal opportunities but are scared of going to the CRE. “What the commission needs to address is the sense employers have that if they approach it with a problem, they may find themselves on the wrong end of an investigation,” said Dominic Johnson, head of employee relations.

He said having a helpline and officers with expertise on developing policies would assist employers. “More progress will be made if the commission thinks first about education, then conciliation, and only when those options have been exhausted turns to litigation,” he said.

Francesca Okosi, HR director at Brent, who has had dealings with the CRE following past problems at the council, said it should be more proactive and less reactive.

“The tendency has been to approach organisations when they are in trouble. That puts them in a position of being in conflict with the employer and puts the employer on the defensive. I would prefer that they are advising and supporting organisations before they get to that point.”

CBI director-general Digby Jones is due to meet CRE chairman Gurbux Singh to discuss how the two bodies can work together.

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