Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 165)



  Q160  Harry Cohen: I understand; but actually that would be quite interesting, to have those other factors, because that is still a huge proportion, that 70%. Can you give us a note on that, about that 70%?

  Ms Stratton: Yes, we will. If I ask the business Commission to look at that specifically and then, in their report, come back to you, would that be okay?

  Q161  Harry Cohen: That will be fine; thank you. Then to pick up on some of your points, you also talked about measures of practical help, was one of your recommendations; where has the Commission got, where have you got with that, with what sorts of ideas about practical help?

  Ms Stratton: We are going as fast as we can. I cannot say that I would be really confident in prejudging what the practical help is. Some of it is what we have been talking about right now, which is getting inside companies, and again Fair Cities does a lot of this. When we are inside a company, looking at the kinds of job qualifications, we are also asking why they have got those qualifications, are they artificial, do you really need an A level for the particular job that they are recruiting for, and the answer lots of times is "No." Tackling that, looking at how they promote. If you look at companies, most companies, around 75%, right now, have some kind of formal equal opportunities policy; only 25% monitor against those. Only 10%, I think it is, monitor promotion policies and only five look at pay, whether pay is equitable. There is a lot to be done by looking inside the companies and asking basic questions. The other is simply looking at their recruitment policies; a lot recruit the way they have always done for the last 20 years and they get the same white men they always have.

  Ms Shah: If I may add a practical example to that. One of the employers that we are working with in London, in our Brent pilot, is Transport for London, and they were very keen to work with us and improve the diversity of their customer assistance. We found that, working with their recruitment practices, we could prepare people to pass their recruitment in assessment centres. There were all sorts of criteria where we thought, "Well, hang on, if you just change that, it's not a critical part of the job but it helps expose some of those issues, but if you were to change that we'd be able to bring these kinds of new candidates to you much more effectively and we do not think, in any way, it would undermine your effectiveness as an organisation or their effectiveness to do the job." We are working with them actually to look in detail at their recruitment practices, but we are only in a position to do that once we have credibly delivered sound people for them and actually helped contribute to their business objectives. It is developing that relationship, where over a cycle of working with them we have got that trust, for them to be able to trust in us, and to be able to challenge them, as a critical friend, in their processes.

  Q162  Harry Cohen: How is this coming into the public domain? You said about the Commission reporting in time for the Budget, presumably that is for any financial implications, but these sorts of changes, which might be quite detailed in some ways, changing recruitment and retention policies, how will that find its way into the public domain, and therefore across the private sector?

  Ms Stratton: In time for the Budget will be the key recommendations on performance indicators, mostly on performance indicators, and recommendations on national policy. We then will produce a full report, in late spring or early summer, which will have all of this detail in it, of what we have learned in the cities. It is our hope that one of the tangible outcomes of this will be that it will not be just the five cities in the City Strategy which take this on, but that all of them start to look and basically set objectives for their key sectors, in terms of the populations which need to be served.

  Q163  Harry Cohen: If there is to be a legislative component, presumably that will follow your late spring, early summer report, and we can pick up on some of those points. In fact, I note that you also make the point that if measures did not produce a marked result within the next few years the Government would need to consider seriously the need for legislation to cover the private sector. Is it looking like legislation will be needed to push the private sector in this direction?

  Ms Stratton: I think that is difficult to tell. First of all, I would say that I do not think there is a great deal of appetite for legislation right now; but before you extend legislation we need to look at what has happened in the public sector, and so that would provide a little bit more evidence. What we do not know is, now it exists for public agencies, did it have any impact there; if it did have impact there then you have a much stronger case, if it did not then we have to figure out some other way to force the issue.

  Q164  Harry Cohen: In a sense, that is my last point. We have got legislation in relation to the public sector, a duty not to discriminate and to report about it. I have never understood really why that has not been in the private sector.

  Ms Stratton: Nor do I.

  Q165  Harry Cohen: I am interested in you saying "Nor do I" because that is very useful; but, this team of business leaders, are they likely to address this point, do they have an objection to it?

  Ms Stratton: They will definitely address it. There is probably a mix of views. If you talk to the leaders of some of the very large multinational companies, any company that deals in the United States does not think this is a big deal. Why not? I think the real issue is what is the impact on smaller companies, on small firms, what does it mean for further regulation, red tape; that I think is really the issue, would be my guess.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. That has been fascinating. We hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have.

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