A senior business figure has called for financial incentives for employers to improve the diversity of their workforce.
Alex Gourlay, managing director of health and beauty retailer Boots, told Personnel Today that legislative attempts to improve diversity through the Equality Bill must be balanced with monetary motivation.
“For example, offering a tax break to a business genuinely incentivises a healthy approach [to diversity], and it also saves the government money in the long run,” he said.
“There’s an alternative way that encourages positive behaviour rather than the negative behaviour of, ‘how do I employ three people I don’t really want as they’re not right for the business, but if I don’t I get a cross in the box?'”
Gourlay’s views were supported by equal rights campaigners.
Sandra Kerr, director of Race for Opportunity, said that the private sector needed both reward and requirement to mend wage and headcount gaps.
“I think both carrot and stick is a good idea, providing balance, but the financial impact of incentives would have to be carefully thought out,” Kerr told Personnel Today.
“Three decades of gender and race discrimination legislation has still left us with an unemployment gap, and I don’t think any legislation trying to force the hiring of people they don’t want is wise.”
A raft of measures to improve diversity were unveiled in the draft Equality Bill last week. Public sector employers and private firms going for state contracts will be forced to publish diversity figures, employment tribunals will have greater powers to act in discrimination cases, and employers will be able to choose minority job candidates over equally qualified majority candidates.
Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said employers hiring less-willing or less-able employees to meet diversity standards would harm their businesses.
A spokesperson for the Government Equalities Office told Personnel Today that financial incentives “would not happen” as part of the Equality Bill in any form, as an employer’s prerogative for diversity “should be a business case”.