Race in the Workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:51 pm on 24th April 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Conservative 5:51 pm, 24th April 2017

My Lords, my noble friend’s report states that it is now time to act and after spending more than a decade working with many of Britain’s wonderful black and minority ethnic communities, action and even legislation is now needed. It is young people’s lives that are being affected here.

As outlined, the first priority has to be data collection, as effective policy or law needs correct data. That priority is in line with Her Majesty’s Government’s current policy on data collection in this area—hence the Government’s race audit of public sector recruitment. Requiring businesses to publish merely puts them in the same position as most public sector employers, who either publish or know that they will be subject to a freedom of information request. Publishing the data will enable effective media and parliamentary scrutiny of companies as well as creating healthy competition between firms to have the best reputation in this area, which is often an effective driver of change.

The lack of meaningful data, as outlined, in many companies that disclosed data— when they could provide them—indicates to me that these companies rarely think that they will be called to account for the treatment of recruits and employees on the grounds of racial discrimination. Speaking as a former personal injury lawyer, companies knew that prosecutions and civil claims by employees could be defended properly only if they had good systems, such as risk assessments, and kept good data and paperwork. The powerful role of the employment tribunal in assessing claims for unfair dismissal has driven effective change within organisations. Can my noble friend the Minister please outline whether the Government will investigate whether the employment tribunal is being accessed by people who are subject to illegal behaviour of this nature and if not, why not? Further legislation may be needed to bring change in this area, but Her Majesty’s Government should look first into whether current legislation is effective.

I would also be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could explain the logic of why companies should be subject to health and safety regulation, employment legislation, hygiene legislation and various powers of licensing—with the local authority having various powers even to enter the premises—but why, on this matter, legislation is not appropriate. I would be grateful for an explanation.