Equality experts have attacked the “piss poor” enforcement of anti-discrimination law as the reason for the lack of black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the workforce.
Lord Herman Ousley, the first black head of the now defunct Commission for Racial Equality, warned that employers were getting away with race discrimination during the recruitment process as they know the authorities will not crack down on them.
Speaking at an event hosted by campaign group Race for Opportunity last week, Ousley said: “This country has piss poor enforcement of discrimination legislation. Employers will not bother improving their practices because they know people won’t come knocking on the door.”
He told Personnel Today: “Anti-discrimination legislation is something employers can put on the back burner – they can just carry on employing people through the back door without using proper procedures.”
Responsibility for enforcing the law rests with the new Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), but Ousley said he held out little hope that the EHRC would do so effectively.
According to the Office for National Statistics, more than double the number of BME people are unemployed compared to white people. The percentage of working age non-white people is also well below that of white people, figures from June 2007 show.
Ousley’s comments were backed up by the independent Public Interest Research Unit. A report last year found that between January 1999 and June 2006, the three former equalities commissions made no use of five of their enforcement powers and little use of the other five.
Its author, Rupert Harwood, said: “This raises doubts as to whether equalities legislation will be any better enforced by the new commission.”
An EHRC spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, discrimination still exists in the UK. And many organisations don’t realise their actions are unfair and unlawful.
“The EHRC will work tirelessly to bring businesses up to speed. Those unwilling to change will feel the full force of our legal powers.”