Equality is being overlooked by the government, experts warn

The coalition government is already facing charges of “not doing enough” to tackle diversity and equality in the workforce, meaning minority groups must take it upon themselves to ensure they continue to develop professionally.

Robin Landman, chief executive of the Network for Black Professionals, told Personnel Today that tackling equality and diversity issues in the workplace did not seem to be a priority for the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.

“The early signs are not good that this will be a priority for them – there’s not going to be much change,” he said.

Parliament itself has some way to go on diversity, with just 4% of the latest set of MPs from black or ethnic minority backgrounds (BME), while only 1% are disabled.

Landman said the government’s plans to claw back funding from the public sector to address the national deficit could affect subsidies used to help develop the skills and experiences of minority groups, while training budgets could be cut. This, he said, would mean minority workers would have to “dig into our pockets” to ensure their training and development could still advance.

“The money is going to run out, so it’s going to be about us being prepared to dig into our pockets to do what we need to do to get ahead,” he said.

“The fact is we are moving into six or seven years of significant public sector cuts. Also we have got a government that has made it clear they want to reduce spending on quangos. So that means there’s not going to be the amount of money there to help positive action interventions.”

Landman urged minority workers to pursue training and to try to gain broad experiences to make themselves more employable.

Herman Ouseley, former executive chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (which preceded the Equality and Human Rights Commission), said current equality policies were more about style than substance, and echoed Landman’s call for minority workers to take the initiative.

“The £6.2bn reductions in the public sector don’t start to scratch the surface of what’s coming,” he added. “We can’t just sit back and think things will get better. There’s an urgency to say you have got to make it happen for yourself. We need to encourage people to get out of what may be their comfort zone.”

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