Four out of five firms oppose using positive action in recruitment – a key clause in the Equality Act to improve diversity – a study of leading business figures has revealed.
Three-quarters of firms would also oppose any change to the law to allow companies to voluntarily set quotas for numbers of women in senior positions, the survey by law firm DLA Piper found.
Eighty-six per cent of the 545 respondents said that the government should not pass legislation with the purpose of increasing the number of women on the boards of UK companies.
The DLA Piper General Election Survey 2010, conducted by YouGovStone, said that 81% opposed positive action to give priority to jobseekers for employment or promotion from under-represented minorities – a power contained in the Equality Act provided that candidates are equally suitable – which will become law later this year: only 13% of respondents were in favour.
One of the senior business figures polled said: “Implementation of quotas … will inevitably lead to the hiring of less able people.”
Another said: “Companies must be able to choose the best people available for all jobs.”
Jonathan Exten-Wright, employment partner at DLA Piper London, said: “The clear message from this research is that direct legislative intervention would face significant opposition from some in the business community.
“The survey’s respondents do not disagree with the objective of greater representation, but many object to the proposed methods which seek to ensure it in a way which they perceive as unfair.”
He added: “The high level of opposition to any legislative change by the government in recruitment and promotion appears to reflect a broader distaste for any further legal burden on UK companies, and the importance placed on individuals being rewarded on merit and no other factors.”
The survey comes as HR professionals warned that the positive action clause in the Equality Act will not work in practice, as it will be difficult to identify which candidates are equally suitable for a pst.