The bigger picture

On the heels of every new piece of employment legislation follows a survey that reveals employers are either not aware of it or have not taken steps to ensure the appropriate measures are in place to deal with it.

This suggests a number of possible scenarios, one of them being that HR departments are so overwhelmed with the spate of legal issues requiring co-ordination, implementation or innovation – along with their normal workloads – that every new piece of legislation must effectively stand in a queue and wait its turn to be dealt with. Unfortunately, legislation is supposed to be implemented on specific dates. If it isn’t, and a dispute arises over points covered in that particular piece of legislation, an employer may well find itself at the sharp end of a tribunal’s stick.

The latest disability requirements for employers, now in force for two months, are a case in point. However, time is not always of the essence, apparently. Take last week’s announcement of the Government’s response to the consultation on the single equality and human rights body. The announcement reveals some intent to get a grip on the big picture and not only to solidify the management of equality issues, but to give the single equality body and subsequent act some teeth. The body is supposed to be up and running in 2007, and the existing Commissions will be phased in during 2008/09.

Joining it all up is, of course, all for the good. But the extended timing is intriguing, because it assumes that bureaucracy will, and should, move slowly and deliberately. Business, however, is expected to change more rapidly. It’s probably too obvious to suggest that the prior existence of a single equality body and act might have streamlined and clarified for business the process of implementing many of the required current changes.

Let’s hope that the Government is able to meet its own deadlines on this all-important effort.

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