Financial meltdown?

Is
the financial sector about to implode under a mountain of discrimination
claims?  Ross Wigham reports

Almost
a third of the UK’s finance professionals have experienced discrimination in
the workplace and almost half will look for a new job during the next 12
months, a major survey has revealed.

The
findings suggest that basic people management measures are failing the
financial services workforce and issues such as work-life balance are becoming
a major problem within the sector.

The
nationwide study by recruiters Robert Half questioned almost 3,000 finance
professionals and discovered that 31 per cent had experienced some form of
discrimination.

Of
those reporting discrimination, 30 per cent believe it was because of their
gender, 24 per cent because of their age and 8 per cent because of their race.

The
survey also highlighted widespread age discrimination and the problem is not
limited to the over-50s.

It
discovered that while age discrimination was rife in the 56-65 age group (59
per cent), more than a third of the employees below the age of 25 who reported
discrimination felt it was because of their age.

Although
women were much more likely to suffer discrimination in the workplace, men were
three times more prone to be a victim on the grounds of age.

Makbool
Javaid, a partner and employment specialist at law firm DLA warned that
legislation would punish organisations that failed to prevent such
discrimination.

“Recent
amendments to sex, race and equal pay legislation and new laws introduced in
December 2003 on sexual orientation, religion or belief are already bringing
dramatic changes to workplace relationships and the way they are managed.

“With
unlimited compensation awards in tribunals topping £1.4m and the bad publicity
which cases can bring, no organisation can ignore the need to protect itself
against the huge amount of risk involved,” he said.

Steve
Carter, the UK and Ireland managing director of Robert Half said that although
most businesses had a diversity policy in place too few were applying it
effectively across their organisation.

“We
work with thousands of HR departments and are reassured on a daily basis that,
by attaching equal opportunities policies to their recruitment processes,
employers are taking discrimination seriously. However, while this looks good
on the surface, we need to encourage more employers to apply their policies to
the whole process – from advertising the role to the individuals whole career
development.

“It’s
only when employers begin to consciously apply equal opportunities guidelines
to their whole HR process that we will begin to see a reduction in
discrimination,” he said.

It
seems that HR is also failing to manage its workforce in other areas with 46
per cent of respondents hoping to leave their job in the next six to 12 months.

The
main reason for wanting to move on was because of dissatisfaction with their
current career progression, with younger staff the most disaffected.

More
than a third of those questioned wanted to move job to achieve a better
work-life balance, with a quarter of respondents working more than 46 hours
each week.

With
finance jobs normally based in cities or major conurbations, many employees
yearn for a life outside the rat race, with 48 per cent dreaming of a life in
the countryside.

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