Tory vice-chairman Alok Sharma promotes voluntary code, but Labour says proposals are laughable
Downing Street is being urged to ask companies to set out the racial composition of their workforce in a bid to reassure black and ethnic minority voters that the Conservatives support their interests.
The proposal for a voluntary code is being promoted by Tory vice-chairman Alok Sharma. He told the Times: “You could have some sort of voluntary code for listed companies to say, ‘If you have taken on 10 people this year and you had 100 interviews and you had 1,000 people who applied, can we see the breakdown by gender and ethic balance?’ Other countries already do it in terms of gender balance, but we could be doing something new if we did it in terms of ethnic balance.
“I am not talking about quotas. It’s about information. All the companies I’ve talked to are incredibly keen on having diversity in their workforce, making sure they are representative of communities, so long as people get the job on merit.”
The Reading West MP made the same call in a Commons debate on gender inequality earlier this month, and said he would press ministers for a response.
Labour said the proposals were laughable given the Tories’ record in cutting legal support for black workers.
The coalition has already launched a review of the new Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which requires public bodies to have “due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination” and “advance equality of opportunity”. Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, has accused the coalition of turning its back on equality measures.
As part of the enterprise and regulatory reform bill, the power of employment tribunals to make broader recommendations on how to address discrimination is to be removed, and the “third-party harassment” provision is expected to go, watering down employees’ protection against sexual harassment and racial discrimination. The equality and human rights commission has suffered swingeing cuts, and a broad summary of the EHRC’s fundamental purpose and aims is also set to be removed from the statute books.
Due to a narrowing of the criteria and the reduced funding, the number of race discrimination cases has fallen from 5,700 to 4,800 in the past year.