Equalities tsar needs to get his own house in order

The job of persuading chief executives and other senior managers that diversity is an issue that should be embraced has been seriously undermined by the revelation that the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) failed to practise what it preaches in terms of its Race Equality Duty to its own HR team.

Of course, it’s too late now, as the CRE has become just one small spur in the equalities behemoth that is the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights.

The debate about who should be responsible for diversity in the workplace has been raging since Phillips called for HR to be stripped of all responsibility for it and called for a new diversity function to be created instead (Personnel Today, 21 August and see Letters).

But Phillips is beginning to lack the credibility to take the issue forward. And questions of credibility have dogged Phillips since the moment of his appointment as head of the CRE in 2003.

Paradoxically, Phillips originally opposed the creation of the CEHR on the grounds that there would be too much upheaval. And while he can rightly be credited for raising the profile of race issues in the UK, questions have always remained over his motives. For instance, the CRE failed to take action against Somerset and Avon Police despite admitting that it was guilty of unlawful recruitment practices. Then Phillips’ subsequent push for positive discrimination was widely rejected by business. And even shy and retiring London mayor Ken Livingstone criticised Phillips for neglecting his duties and being a ‘self publicist’ – a view confirmed by an earlier PIRU report, which highlighted just how little the CRE had actually done in terms of using its power to enforce equality legislation. Not exactly inspiring stuff.

That track record – or lack of it – coupled with questions over whether the new body has enough of a budget to be effective, raises serious doubts about the future of both Phillips and the CEHR itself.

Tony Pettengell
Group Production Editor
Personnel Today

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