Equality Bill: financial incentives no solution to diversity failings

The fallout from last month’s unveiling of the Equality Bill continues apace. The suggestion that employers should, in effect, be paid to hire more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers will undoubtedly provoke controversy.

When this view is expressed by the managing director of one of the leading names on the high street, does it truly indicate the way the wind is blowing in boardrooms across the UK?

The idea put forward by Boots’ managing director Alex Gourlay suggests that top employers have yet to be fully convinced of the business case for diversity – if they were, there would be no need financial incentives in the form of tax breaks to hire a more diverse workforce

I don’t need to lay out that business case here, I would be preaching to the converted. But Gourlay’s comments show there is still some way to go in driving the message home among the higher echelons of business.

The Government Equalities Office has immediately ruled out any chance of firms being incentivised to boost BME numbers. However Race for Opportunity – a network of employers that promotes workplace diversity (of which Boots is a member) – has been less dismissive.

Writing exclusively for Personnel Today this week, Barbara Follett, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for women and equality, said the low employment rate for ethnic minorities demonstrated the need for new laws to help boost their chances (see page 16).

Good employers don’t need legislation or financial incentives to improve workplace diversity they are already proactively doing it. Forward-thinking HR practices led by innovative HR professionals mean these firms are forging ahead in the field of diversity.

I wonder what will be going through the mind of Boots’ HR director when he picks up on his MD’s comments? Feel free to write in and let us know…

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