Positive discrimination coverage: reader feedback

Our recent coverage on positive discrimination – especially when the Metropolitan Police HR director came out in support of it (Personnel Today, 1 May) prompted some impassioned responses. Here are some of your contributions to the debate…

Positive discrimination deals with the symptom, not the cause

Dr Mike Rowe from the department of criminology at Leicester University observed, back in 2005, that despite decades of police investment “trying to increase the number of ethnic minorities they recruit” they have “never been very successful at it”.

This is probably why Martin Tiplady, Metropolitan Police HR director, feels compelled to back “calls for positive discrimination” to get “the Met Police to look like London”.

Surely the composition of the police force is not the ultimate objective here, though. He implies that if the police do not reflect the society they serve then society is not best served. In which case the issue here is performance, not diversity.

Instead of introducing positive discrimination, which he freely admits would be a nightmare to manage, why doesn’t Tiplady just make sure the Met has effective performance management in place?

Dealing with symptoms of problems (under-representation) without addressing root causes (police officers who fail certain sections of society) only perpetuates the problem. Cause and effect in HR is notoriously complex, which is why HR directors have to resist any pressures or temptations to resort to knee-jerk reactions and sledgehammer policies. They are never the answer.

Paul Kearns, director, PWL

There’s nothing positive about discrimination

While I can understand Martin Tiplady’s desire to build a more representative workforce, I cannot endorse his call for his organisation to openly discriminate as a means to achieve this.

Think about it: an HR director happy to advocate that we should no longer recruit on the basis of ability to do the job as this is apparently justified to meet a centrally-set target.

Stand back from this a moment and look at it dispassionately. What is being promoted here is much more than just a nightmare for HR to manage. It is in direct contravention of the law, goes against all recruitment best practice, and would mean that your ability to do a particular job would become meaningless and irrelevant as your suitability would be ultimately judged on something out of your control. That can’t be right in any circumstances.

While working briefly in the Civil Service, colleagues there were justifiably proud of ensuring that all recruitment activity adhered to its code of ‘open and fair recruitment’.

Yet Tiplady and other promoters of so-called ‘positive discrimination’ – and there’s nothing ‘positive’ about it, it’s simply ‘discrimination’ – seem somehow to believe that they have a higher moral purpose that would allow such principles to be discarded in favour of a system of ‘closed and unfair’ recruitment.

Their intention may be well meaning but it’s not a case of there being no political will to implement such a measure. It’s because of a recognition and understanding that, at its core, such an approach is fundamentally wrong.

I can sympathise with Tiplady’s dilemma, but he needs to understand why it is that his organisation is failing to recruit and appeal to those sections of society that he feels it lacks. To try to redress this imbalance through a crude process of direct discrimination is more than just ‘not ideal’ – it’s wrong.

There has to be a better and more equitable way.

Tom Randle,  director of HR, Europ Assistance Holdings

Who is considering the quality of the applicants?

Am I alone in a growing despair and despondency about the alleged ‘great and good’ in the HR profession?

Your news story on utilising positive discrimination in the Metropolitan Police force was, frankly, bewildering.

While accepting the argument that a workforce that is more representative of the community is undoubtedly a good thing, both practically and politically, I would hope that some attention might also be given to the quality of applications, good and bad, irrespective of the applicants’ skin colour.

Rob Key, organisational development practitioner, HQ HR, NHS National Services Scotland

Employing minorities does not equal lower standards

Discrimination laws are only as effective as individuals are brave in that they have to sue in order to have them enforced.

The suggestion that employing minorities equates to lower standards (Personnel Today, 8 May) is offensive. Thankfully, this type of thinking is disappearing as more minorities are given opportunities that they were formerly denied by people of a similar mindset.

Ramona L Mangrum, posted on personneltoday.com


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