Monday, 6 December 2010

Today Programme: The Case for Meritocracy

Last week, the government announced - without Parliamentary debate - the implementation of two residual parts of Harriet Harman's Equality Act 2010. I wrote an article for the Sunday Times on 21st November (available here), urging the coalition to ditch both elements.

On public body audits, I argued:

"... Scrap the draft Regulations that will force up to 27,000 schools, police forces, councils and other public bodies to audit their staff annually – checking quotas for age, disability, sex changes, pregnancy, race, religion, other beliefs, gender and sexual orientation. Officials at the Equalities and Human Rights Commission say they have no plans to read the deluge of reports coming their way. The Government Equalities Office have not bothered to cost how they will review all that data, and ludicrously estimate that compiling these reports will not cost - but rather save - public bodies £25million per year. But, putting aside cost, how would it work in practice? Either the internal audits are compulsory for staff - an Orwellian intrusion into personal privacy. Or they are voluntary, inaccurate and useless. And what is the right social mix for, say, West Yorkshire police? Should their workforce be compared with the national population, the local community or other police forces?"

On positive discrimination, I suggested binning the clause:

"... allowing positive discrimination at job interviews with equally good candidates. Under Labour, we saw training and internships bar applications from white males. A young student in my constituency complained when he was told not to apply for Foreign Office placements open exclusively to ethnic minority, female and disabled candidates. Coalition Ministers immediately put that scheme under review. The new clause would extend this policy to recruitment, encouraging employers to hire on the basis of social quotas not talent. The notion of a dead heat in recruitment is a fiction. I have never known a competitive process that could not test candidates until it found a winner. But, if employers are supposed to have one eye on the social make up of their work force, how do they know when they have the right balance? What should they compare their workforce with? What does the box-tick-box ethnic-gender-social utopia, that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission yearn for, look like? At best a recipe for confusion, at worst it is bitterly divisive. Successful minority candidates will suffer from the perception that they got a leg up, without earning it, which would also corrode team morale."

You can listen to my interview on this issue with the Today programme this morning here.


waltonwanderer said...

Sounds like a case of ill thought through law to me too, well done for challenging it. As an employer it is tough enough to make the right recruitment decisions solely on merit, never mind having to create an audit trail of all these considerations to protect yourself from the inevitable legal challenges.

Lady Stum said...

Sadly we don't live in an equal society and there are many talented people that are passed over because of discrimination. I carried out a poll on a local internet forum to see how things have moved on in terms of mental health. Sadly, of the few people that responded to the poll, none of them would ignore the diagnosis of Schizophrenia when considering offering a job. 64% would not offer them a post full stop. More worryingly was the very strong comments left about employing people with mental illness. Showing how twisted the public perception is of mental illness. obviously the poll isn't large enough to be significant, but until humans really reach a place where they can judge people for their talent and nothing else, then I think we do need some safeguards in place to ensure those with talent but the added burden of disibility get a fair chance.

Dom Raab said...

Not sure how what is being proposed would address the issue you highlight.

More generally, I have been too lax in applying the site policy, and will now start insisting on 'non-anonymity' rule.

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