Equality and Human Rights Commission diversity action plan may hinder smaller businesses

Large companies could find it easier to tackle the diversity action plan outlined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) than smaller ones, an expert has warned.

Kieran O’Keeffe, policy adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned that the diversity watchdog risked putting small businesses at a disadvantage.

EHRC chairman Trevor Phillips gave the first insight into his ambitions for the all-powerful body when he spoke to a business conference earlier this month.

Phillips said he wanted all businesses to:

  • Create a board-level equality champion
  • Publish equalities data in annual reports
  • Consider equality deficits as part of risk-assessment procedures
  • Use procurement policies as a lever to achieve greater equality.

O’Keeffe told Personnel Today: “The proposals are geared towards larger businesses.

“Particularly, if there were more policy requirements for the procurement process, there would be problems for smaller companies.”

Phillips warned employers that he would not be afraid to come down hard on those not offering equal treatment to all workers.

“To put it glibly, we can do it the nice way, or we can do it the not-so-nice way,” he said. “Our whole approach at the moment is geared towards doing it the nice way, but we have other, sharper tools at our disposal, which we can use if we have to.

“When practices are heinous enough, and resistance is embedded, we will back invasive investigations, litigation, legislation and coercive frameworks to the hilt.”

The EHRC replaced the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission on 1 October.

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