These pages relate principally to Great Britain.
A voluntary equalities standard for businesses was launched in May 2013.
The temporary website of the standard is hosted by Ernst and Young: www.ey.com/UK/en/Home/National-Equality-Standard
"The National Equality Standard is a groundbreaking initiative developed for business, by business, which sets clear equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) criteria against which companies will be assessed.
"Until now, there has been no industry recognised national standard for EDI in the UK, leading to a lack of clarity and inconsistency in the approach from industry. The National Equality Standard (NES) is a business led initiative designed to address this gap."
This seems to be a very important initiative, with potential to drive up equality standards. Supported by EHRC and the CBI, it seems set to become 'the' main voluntary equality standard that businesses can choose to sign up to. One hopes that it has been designed to have real effects 'on the ground', rather than being an HR, administrative tick-box system.
A concern is that the 'worst offenders' on equality actually seem to be smaller businesses - though obviously not all of them! It is not clear whether the new standard will cater for these. Even if the standard does cater for them, it is for the business to decide whether to sign up or not. An incentive for businesses to get involved could be the National Equality Trading Standard (part of this initiative) which may give suppliers an advantage tendering for contracts, where the buyer wants bidders to show they meet equality and diversity requirements.
Businesses and other organisations naturally remain bound by the Equality Act 2010 whether or not they sign up to the National Equality Standard. Also the new standard does not appear to impose any new legal obligations.
Ernst and Young is also a founder member of British Stammering Association's Employers Stammering Network.
Speaking to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee (but about a strategy for the whole of Great Britain), the EHRC said in February 2013:
Forging relationships with private sector employers is relatively new territory for us, and we have had significant success in that regard. For example, we are working with some fairly big FTSE 350 employers on an equalities standard that we can support and which will act as a kitemark for promoting equality and enabling companies to reach a standard that we believe will promote fairness in the workplace.
Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee, 28th February 2013 (link to scottish.parliament.uk).
Government proposals for a kitemark date back at least to summer 2008. It was part of the then Labour government's proposals on 'transparency' in a new Equality Bill. The Goverment said it would work with others to develop a 'kite-mark' scheme for employers who are transparent about reporting their progress on equality, as a further means to encourage greater openness in the private sector. The government believed that businesses "increasingly recognise the advantages they can gain from improving their performance on equality, so that they can attract and retain talent from the widest possible pool and tap into new markets. We therefore expect that performance on equality will increasingly be a matter which companies choose to report to their shareholders and stakeholders."
Transparency was also a key principle in 2011 behind the Coalition government's new specific duties under the public sector equality duty. Of course the new equality standard/kitemark would doubtless be voluntary, rather than required by law.
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Last updated 26th May, 2013