Equality and Human Rights Commission not doing what was hoped

Six months on from the formation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the consensus among employers and others would probably be: ‘could do better’.

The commission’s softly-softly approach in the first weeks of its existence has not been met with universal approval as our news analysis (page 7) shows. When it launched back in October there seemed to be more of a debate about what the new body should be called – EHRC or CEHR, did it matter? – and the £100,000 spent on a new logo and website (still incomplete), than what it actually meant for employers.

That debate still seems to be raging, with one senior charity official bemoaning the lack of either campaigning action or real dialogue. The news that the watchdog is about to launch an awareness campaign on YouTube, then attempt to gain some friends on Facebook, will hardly set pulses racing among HR professionals.

Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect the new body to hit the ground running as it merged three separate commissions, but something more than an amble would have been desirable.

A case in point is the debate on positive discrimination – an issue that employers feel strongly about and fear EHRC chief Trevor Phillips will persuade the government to legislate on.

My colleague Tony Pettengell, who has written several columns on this particular hot potato, took part in a debate last week on Liverpool’s City Talk radio station. The EHRC was invited to contribute or send a spokesman. It declined, thus denying listeners the chance to hear what the commission really thought and what its plans might be.

The CBI said at its launch that the commission must stand on an equal footing with employers and not just become a police force. At the moment it is acting like an estranged partner with serious commitment issues.

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