Featherstone: new tools will help make the workplace
Employers will be asked to help tackle the
gender pay gap by publishing equality data about their workforce on
a voluntary basis, under plans announced today by Equalities
Minister Lynne Featherstone.
The proposal, which will increase transparency
and help employers identify problems, is aimed at organisations
that employee 150 or more people and follows a similar commitment
for the public sector announced earlier this year.
Speaking at the launch of the annual Female
FTSE100 report, which shows that the number of women on the boards
of Britain’s biggest companies has barely increased in the past
three years, the Minister also announced that the Government will
enact the Equality Act’s rules on positive action in relation to
recruitment and promotion.
This will help employers make their
organisations more representative by giving them the option, when
faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, to choose a
candidate from a group that is under-represented in the workforce.
For example, a primary school that has no male teachers could
choose to appoint a male candidate who is of equal merit to a
female candidate. This does not mean allowing “quotas” or giving
someone a job just because they are a woman, disabled or from an
ethnic minority – positive discrimination is not acceptable and
Details of both measures are contained in the
cross-government Equality Strategy, which was published this
morning. It explains the Government’s new approach to tackling
inequality, which sees a move away from the identity politics of
the past to a vision of equality of opportunity based on treating
people as individuals with individual needs.
As part of this new approach the Government
Equalities Office will become a unit of the Home Office rather than
a standalone department, bringing equality into the heart of
Speaking to an audience of business
leaders at London’s Docklands, Equalities Minister Lynne
“We want to move away from the arrogant
notion that Government knows best to one where Government empowers
individuals, businesses and communities to make change happen.
Different organisations face different challenges in promoting
equality so if we are to get this right for everybody a much more
flexible approach is needed.
“Today’s Equality Strategy is our
blueprint for change, including plans for voluntary pay reporting
and positive action in recruitment and promotion.
“These plans are absolutely not about
political correctness, or red tape, or quotas. They are about
giving individual employers the tools they need to help make the
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- The full text of Lynne
Featherstone’s speech is available online at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/
- For further details on the
Cranfield Business School’s Female FTSE100 report, contact Marie
McCormack on 01234 754 425.
- For all other enquiries
contact the Government Equalities Office press office on 020 7035
The Government will work with employers in the
private and voluntary sectors to promote reporting of equality data
on a voluntary basis - a voluntary approach will give better
information and is more likely to drive successful change.
Each year the Government will review how many companies are
publishing such information and its quality in order to assess
whether alternatives are required, including using a mandatory
approach through section 78 of the Equality Act. While we
work with business and the voluntary sector to ensure the voluntary
approach is successful, we will not commence, amend or repeal
Section 159 of the Equality Act 2010 allows
employers to use positive action in recruitment and promotion. It
will come into force from April 2011; formal guidance for employers
will be published early next year.
Employers will be allowed to
consider using positive action where there is enough evidence to
make them reasonably think that people with a protected
characteristic suffer some sort of disadvantage because of that
characteristic or are disproportionately under-represented.
When either of those two
conditions apply, this new provision will enable an employer who is
faced with making a choice between candidates who are of equal
merit to opt to offer that job to a candidate with a targeted
protected characteristic. For example, a nursery that only has
female care staff could employ a male candidate ahead of a female
candidate of equal merit in order to create more representative
Even if employers choose to
use positive action, all recruitment or promotion must still be
based on merit. Using these provisions does not mean that
people will be recruited simply because of their gender or the
colour of their skin. That would be positive
discrimination and that will remain unlawful. Where there is a
superior candidate then that candidate should always be offered the
job. POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION IS ILLEGAL IN THIS COUNTRY AND
WILL REMAIN ILLEGAL.
Any use of positive action
is entirely voluntary - employers will not be compelled to use
it. There are safeguards in place to prevent employers from
misusing these measures and the provisions make clear that
employers must not have any policies or practices which routinely
favour candidates with a protected characteristic.
Building a Fairer Britain –
the cross-Government strategy for tackling inequality - was
published this morning. It sets out a new approach to equality,
moving away from the identity politics of the past and to an
approach recognising people’s individuality. It also sets out a new
role for Government, moving beyond simply introducing more
legislation, to promoting equality through transparency and
behaviour change. Government will act as a catalyst and advocate
for change, working with businesses, the voluntary sector and wider
civil society to create equal opportunities.
The strategy can be
downloaded from http://www.equalities.gov.uk/
The Government Equalities
Office will be brought into the Home Office and cease to be a
separate department. The move is in line with the Equality
Strategy’s commitment to making equalities a core part of
Government business rather than an add-on.
The change is likely to take
effect from 1 April next 2011, the start of the new financial
Subject to agreement of the
House authorities, the Government intends to continue with separate
Women and Equality Oral Questions, a practice that long predates