The UK's Equality Act 2010 was imposed on companies against the wishes of business leaders. Ideology inspired legislation resulting in yet more social engineering and red tape bureaucracy. However, has this just ended up at disadvantaging the protective groups even further, at the cost of business efficiency?
Equality Act UK 2010 – More Politically Correct Nonsense Imposed on Business
The Equality Act UK 2010 appears to be driven by politically correct left wing ideology. Forced on companies whilst the UK is trying to reduce its enormous debts following the Credit Crunch. This article explores how this legislation adds yet more red tape to businesses, and will end up adversely affecting the selected ‘protected groups’ it was suppose to protect. It is getting to the stage where an individual dare not open their mouth even to make a compliment, and certainly not to tell a joke. Taking offense if you're an individual benefitting from a protected characteristic such as race, religion, or gender (i.e. female) can translate to a huge compensation claim . This and similar legislation aims to produce an equality of outcome, but human beings are not clones, and businesses and individuals will suffer as a result.
In common with most businesses Datalite UK Ltd receives its fair share of UK government interference. On one occasion the company was going through a lengthy tick box questionnaire with a female officer from one of the UK's many quangos. She asked the company whether there was an ‘Equality and Diversity’ policy in place, and was ticking a box list to check answers fully complied with all the legislation on the subject. The business chief looked at this rather scruffy individual straight in the eye, and said “Your question implies that my company would rather employ a less efficient person based on their gender or skin colour – why would we want to do that?” She didn’t have an answer. The point is Market Forces would naturally correct such imbalances to favour efficiency – so why the requirement for all this Equality and Diversity in the first instance? Something else appears to be going on, perhaps driven more by ideology than logic.
Equality is often linked with Diversity, hence all the Equality & Diversity officers and organisations proliferating the UK in recent years. Diversity means a mixture, a mixture of what? In its multicultural promotion use, one can argue the UK is not as diverse as it should be - the country is distinctly lacking in Eskimos, Native American Indians, and many other races. This is all nonsense, looking at the various races and cultures across the world such as Chinese, Africans, and Swedish to cite a few examples – should these all be forced to adopt a homogenous mix by international law? And who decides on the mix? In the UK, international gangsters people trafficking have had more control over the make up of the UK’s diversity mix than anyone else. With the best will in the world, trying to assimilate various cultures, particularly those that do not get on, invariably ends up in the creation of ghettos and tension. Paradoxically if the whole world actually achieved a complete multicultural ‘diverse’ mix, the end result would be a world lacking in countries with individual cultures and identity.
Inequality starts off from birth; very simply none of us are equal. A person may be lucky enough to be born onto an affluent family, or the product of unemployed drug addicts. Equality is a laudable aim, but impossible to define and achieve. Many injustices can arise through politically correct attempts at trying to achieve what simply can’t be done.
One view of equality is an extreme equalitarianism perspective, this aims for equality of outcome. Absolute equal treatment and reward irrespective of ability, effort, merit, or any other quality one would care to mention. This couldn’t even be achieved by creating a new human race of clones all sharing the same DNA and fed information and stimulus controlled by machines at exactly the same time. Individuals will achieve different outcomes, as precise cell growth by its nature is not exactly predictable. In short, absolute equality is an impossible goal to achieve, and any equality policy, particularly those attempting to turn the business tide of natural market forces, will be tempered by bias and ultimately doomed to failure. As a recent example, the recent credit crunch was primarily catalysed by politically correct USA legislation forcing banks to loan to selected 'poor' groups, hence sub-prime debts. The crisis was not entirely the bankers fault.
One assumption made in some quarters is that all people are born equal, and it is purely society’s interaction that shapes the destiny of an individual. In other words it is all nurture - nil nature. This assumption is flawed; to focus on intelligence, it has been scientifically proved beyond reasonable doubt that pure intelligence is genetically pre-determined. Studies in the 1930s supported this point, and it is reinforced by genetic research gleaned since. An individual may increase their knowledge, but raw intellect ability is predetermined. An analogy is to compare intelligence to the fixed ability of a computer processor to process information, but extra information can still be added to the hard drive. This is an important point, because the assumption we’re all equal in latent intellectual ability results in much time and money wasted in trying to correct ‘inequalities’ that are genetically predetermined.
It doesn’t take much in the way of ‘thought experiments’ to rapidly conclude equality is unattainable. Three examples are provided to illustrate the sort of problems that fundamentally exist. First consider the statistic that taller men tend to be more successful than shorter men. Women as a whole are shorter than men, so if wages are rigged so both groups have absolutely the same wage outcome; the shorter men will need to be paid less than the same sized women – hence further inequality is created.
The next example epitomises the problems encountered when dealing with so called equality. Wimbledon Tennis finals have historically had a slightly bigger prize pot for men’s singles compared to the women. However, to much fanfare by the feminist fraternity the prize money is now equal. However this prize money is not equitable when one considers: men play more sets than women (5 vs 3), the men’s final is more popular, the men’s final attracts greater sponsorship, and the men’s final is worth more on television rights. True equality has not been achieved; the same prize money is down to purely ideological reasons. Equal pay for unequal work and value.
The third example appeared in UK newspapers a few years ago. One local authority was concerned with inequality in fishing! Noting with disdain this particular pastime tends be dominated by white males. Resources were diverted to promote fishing for females and under represented ethnic groups to correct the perceived imbalance. This crazy ‘politically correctness gone mad’ story epitomises the ‘equality of outcomes’ culture that has arisen in the Western world over recent years. There is absolutely nothing in the UK to stop anyone fishing – perhaps the under represented groups simply do not want to fish.
There are countless such stories, which really do adversely impact on freewill and free speech. To use the business argument earlier, the majority of business decisions including employment are based purely on what improves profit or not. It follows that businesses left to their own devices will succeed or fail on that criteria alone. Therefore the businesses that select any other basis –such as employing people based on the colour of their skin or gender, rather than on added cost benefit, will ultimately fail through market forces.
In the United Kingdom legislation has been introduced to attempt to influence and instigate ‘equality’. The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 was introduced primarily to prevent women from being discriminated. However, it remains debatable whether this legislation is needed or indeed valid. For example, comparing a pregnant woman to a non pregnant male is not comparing like for like. As the business guru Alan Sugar once said, he would think twice before employing a woman. He argued that equal opportunity laws have made it harder for a woman to get a job; employers are not allowed to ask even the simplest question regarding domestic arrangements. The Net result can often be a safety first approach – don’t employ in the first place. This sort of unintended consequence is a running theme with all such legislation.
The Race Relations Act of 1976, and further amended in 2000 to include laws to encourage proactive action, were introduced with good intentions. There will always be bigoted people around, but the existence of the race relations acts can adversely effect race relations. Most reasonable people can now be guarded to the extreme in their personal dealings with ethnic minorities. The risk is of encountering an opportunist who can potentially make a small fortune at taking an offence at virtually anything and twisting it into a racial harassment. Furthermore the risk of an employer employing people potentially covered by the Race Relations act can be immense – some sadly conclude it is safer to keep recruitment of some ethnic minorities to a bare minimum.
What is daft about all the legislative attempts to change people’s behaviour is that much of it is counter-productive. Businesses will naturally select on business added cost value, if 5% more profit can be obtained by employing hypothetical green Martians with purple dots - that's whom they will employ! The legislation has the de facto effect of attempting to force businesses into practices that may be inefficient and costly in the long term. An example of this in the UK is there is a severe shortage of doctors, a prime reason is the government inspired attempt to achieve a 50:50 split in males and females. This resulted in training more females; but many subsequently left to have babies and leaving the profession, thereby creating a shortage as well as a wasted training cost.
The various equality initiatives as well as being patronising to the individuals concerned, have ended up disadvantaging the groups they were designed to protect. Running a business is all about risk management, and comparing two individuals of similar qualities and qualifications is not an equal choice, if one has the potential to use a mass of legislation to damage the company for individual gain. The politically correct brigade do not see this, and continually press for ever more intrusive and irritating legislation; to the stage where it is almost impossible to open one’s mouth without the expensive potential to offend somebody. The alleged victim can decide what they find offensive, which can be almost anything. It is amazing what people find offensive when there are thousands of pounds to be gained!
The UK has ended up complicit in all this PC rubbish, though the majority moan about it with gusto behind officialdom’s back. The penalties of a slightly off colour joke or inadvertent comment can be draconian, such as instant work dismissal. The PC organisation and individuals are very selective themselves of whom can be offended or promoted. By way of example it is okay to award child residential cases (formerly custody) to woman ninety per cent of the time. Or to call a man a ‘ginger rodent’ as the feminist man hating politician Harriet Harman has recently done; but there are big bucks to be had if you happen to be a woman ‘offended’ by a compliment on your nice black dress. Many employers blatantly discriminate in favour of polish workers, due to their (largely deserved) reputation, but this sort of discrimination is allowed unfettered. Women only political short lists offer a 100% discrimination against any man, including ethnic men. It would appear that politically correct ideology encourages much unwarranted discrimination. This is simply wrong.
The Equality Act 2010 was recently introduced into the UK. This was driven by the aforementioned Harriet Harman, and much debate was stifled as a recent election dominated the political arena. The scope of interference this legislation brings in is immense, and has potential to adversely affect businesses in a number of ways. The concept of protected characteristics of: race, gender, age, sex orientation, disability, religion, belief has been introduced. It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of any of this lot. Nice sentiment, but the devil is in the detail. It doesn’t take much to see the potential for daft decisions, huge scope for opportunists, and a vast amount of money wasted both in the private and public sector.
Lawyers of course must be rubbing their hands with glee. Will companies be forced to employ as a fashion model an elderly Octavian complete with their Zimmer frame? Will it be unlawful for an orchestra needing a concert pianist, not to offer the job to handicapped individuals missing upper limbs? Will it be illegal not to take seriously somebody who believes in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy?
What we can be certain of is that the usual Politically Correct discrimination will still remain in complete disregard of the Equality Act; so we will still see primary schools lacking in male role models, the Women’s Institute will still remain, and women in divorce cases will still be treated as helpless victims that can’t earn a penny for themselves. Double hypocritical politically corrected standards as always will rule.
From a business perspective, there is much for employers to fear. Some of the legislation is actually impossible to fully comply with. One example is that employers will be responsible for everything a customer chooses to say. If an employee perceives being ‘offended’ by something a customer inadvertently says, then they can potentially claim unlimited damages for ‘hurt feelings’ and the company could end up on the front page of the tabloid popular newspapers. No advice is offered to employers on how they can adequately police this – in fact there is no practical solution. For a small business the owner could protect their business by personally serving every customer themselves and not allowing them to come in contact with their staff. But such a ‘solution’ is not really practical for the CEO of a supermarket chain such as Tesco – there will be a hell of a queue!
Another adverse business effect is this legislation can create a hostile working environment. People will be so wary of saying the wrong thing; they will logically conclude it is safer to keep interactions and conversations with protected groups to a bare and witnessed minimum. You don’t know who may be keeping a dossier, who will be seeking to be offended by some innocuous comment, or who will be an opportunist willing to lie through their teeth to gain a few tens of thousands of pounds or more. Silent misery rules!
All this legislating for behaviour can be so patronising for the groups targeted also it can send the wrong message. It is one thing to watch television and conclude that the black newscaster Trevor Phillips was selected for the job because he’s excellent at his job (which he is) and another to listen to the wailing banshee of football commentary from the BBC’s Jackie Oakley and summarise she was employed to fill a gender quota.
There is one good marker of natural outcomes; this is self employment. Similar to fishing, there is nothing to stop anyone starting their own business. Nationally available statistics tell their own story; just 1 out of 4 entrepreneurs in the UK are women, and only 7% in science and technology. Incidentally the author personally knows many brilliant business women; but the point is that given a free choice equality of outcome does not happen. And why should it? Adults should be free to make their own choice, and for many women (and some men) that is to do the most important full time job of them all, bringing up children.
The likely outcome of this legislation will be little change for small business, albeit with more disincentive to employ those in protected groups – unless their reputation, potential value well offset their additional risk. Larger corporations and government business, will of course wish to be seen to comply, especially as some large businesses are effectively bribed to comply with politically correct inspired legislation against market forces to gain lucrative government contracts. No wonder the country is in debt! There will of course be the usual smattering of ridiculous opportunist cases reported in tabloid newspapers, which will further put small business off employing persons with the respective ‘protected characteristics’.
The outcome to this latest politically correct claptrap; will be to further develop the culture of fear that currently exists in the United Kingdom. Many people will be frightened to say anything outside their own culture and certainly not within earshot of a person with a ‘protective characteristic’. Conversation with potential do-gooder intermediaries will be kept to a bare bones minimum.
Small businesses will undoubtedly increase use of the ‘unadvertised job network’ to seek employees, relying on people they know and word of mouth. Job centre advertising will be a no-no – you can’t even ask for somebody who can speak and write English. Large businesses will still select who they want following bland advertising, but will be legally forced to interview more candidates never in contention, wasting everybody's time. Businesses will be less candid to job applicants, it will legally be far safer just to say 'we found a more suitable candidate', than to give any constructive advice that will help their future prospects.
It is concluded that this latest equality legislation will achieve direct opposite of what it is trying to achieve, and end up harming the prospects of the very people the act is designed to protect. As the old adage goes; the road to hell is full of good intentions.