Equal opportunities legislation has been with us for a generation or two so it’s no surprise the incidence of direct discrimination crossing my desk is less than it once was. But that doesn’t mean everything in the garden’s rosy. Far from it. I’m seeing two things. First, legal redress is simply not an option for far too many victims of discrimination. Second, I believe discrimination has become subtly institutionalised (just speak to a woman employed in the public sector who’s taken a career break for family reasons and ask her about opportunities for training, advancement and her pension).
This has been thrown into sharper focus by the publication last month of a series of unconnected reports – but are they really unconnected? Is the bigger picture one of a society becoming more fractured and increasingly content to let the devil take the hindmost?
- The Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons reported that Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular face the highest levels of unemployment of all religious and ethnic groups.
- The TUC published research by Yougov that 52% of women have been sexually harassed at work and 79% of them didn’t report it.
- The CAB published research finding that 49% of disabled people are in work compared with 80% of those free of health problems, and this gap hasn’t changed in the last ten years.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that employees with mental health problems typically earn up to 42% less than their colleagues.
- The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published another list of employers who’ve failed to pay the National Minimum Wage. The list was the longest it’s published in 3 years.
- The High Pay Centre published its annual survey of salaries at FTSE 100 companies revealing annual pay rises for CEO’s of approximately 10%.
It’d be easy to dismiss these reports individually as statements of the obvious but that belittles the serious research behind them. When we’re presented with so many signs that equality is just a pipedream for so many it’s hard to avoid concluding the Equality Act isn’t working – and in my book any Act which requires 29 official guidance papers is suspect from the outset!
It’s a pretty safe bet equal opportunities will feature in our forthcoming White Paper to be launched on Thursday 22 September at 6pm at the Concorde Club, Stoneham Lane, Eastleigh SO50 9HQ. My colleagues and I would be delighted if you’d join us for this event – please just RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place.