The government's flagship Equality Bill, set to be formally laid before Parliament in next week's Queen's Speech, has provoked a great deal of controversy since it was first unveiled in June.
The Equality Bill will allow employers to positively discriminate in favour of women and minorities, give wider powers to employment tribunals, ban 'gagging clauses' on pay, and require some organisations to publish diversity and gender pay statistics.
Now, an exclusive survey of 1,080 HR professionals by Personnel Today and law firm Pinsent Masons reveals what the HR community really thinks about the Bill. Our research shows that, while more junior staff are broadly supportive of government efforts to increase equality in the workplace, there seems to be some apathy towards the new laws among senior practitioners.
All HR directors polled state that the amount of time they have spent dealing with employment legislation – and by extension money and effort – has increased. The majority also feel it will take yet more time to introduce the new regulations into their business – yet only half say the legislation will benefit equality.
So the apathy emerges as a result of the gap between the administrative burdens that employers see being placed upon them, and the outcomes achieved as a result of introducing the legislation.
Coupled with the expectation that the regulations will swell the number of tribunal claims from employees, therefore resulting in more expense in the future, it's no wonder that the HR community is concerned about the impact of the Bill.
Eight in 10 respondents said the time spent dealing with employment law issues over the past two years had increased. The most significant reason for this increase was the administration time linked to introducing new laws (66%), with more than one-third saying the increase was due to more claims being brought by employees.
One in 10 HR professionals believe they will need 'a significant amount of time' to introduce the new regulations into their business, with a further 50% saying it will take 'a fair amount of time'. Public sector respondents were twice as likely as their private sector counterparts to need a significant amount of time (15% compared to 8%) – reflecting the increased duties the Bill will impose on that sector.
Selwyn Blyth, senior associate in the employment la