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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:31 am on 9th June 2009.

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Katja Hall: Of course, there is a trade-off between a simple metric figure, which would be easy to compare across organisations but would risk being meaningless if taken out of context, and a more descriptive or narrative form of reporting that might be more meaningful, but would not be as easy to compare. Where the CBI and most of our members come from on this issue is about what we need to do. Of course we need to encourage greater transparency, and of course companies need to have some idea of where they are in order to know where they want to get to, but where we would like to start is by finding out what works. I do not think that we have a clear idea at the moment about what companies are doing out there, and about what they find works and delivers progress. We know of companies that monitored for years and years and made very little progress, but then they introduced staff surveys and tracked the satisfaction rates of different groups of employees, which has enabled them to make real progress. For them, that has been a much more meaningful way of reporting—or whatever you want to call it.

In the first instance, we would like to find out what works and what does not. We would see us—the CBI—as having a role in gathering that information. On that basis, we think that there could be merit in developing, in a sense, a basket of indicators that companies could pick and choose from when it comes to transparency. That might be an equal pay figure, but it might be such things as female levels of participation, participation of women at different levels within the organisation, take-up of flexible working and possibly even child care—there is a range of indicators. What works in one company and is meaningful in one company would not necessarily be meaningful in another company. However, if companies first find out what works, then we spread that message of good practice and, thirdly, give employers the tools from which to pick and choose, we think that real progress could be made.