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WORK LIFE-EQUALITY

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Francesca Okosi, director of human resources at Brent LBC, addresses equality ...
Francesca Okosi, director of human resources at Brent LBC, addresses equality
The recent implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, and the new s71 duties provide councils with the opportunity to set the pace on equalities and lead by example.
The government's modernisation plan gives councils a real opportunity to transform their approach to race equality, and equality issues in general.
In the late 1980s many councils were at the forefront of race equality work, but this was not followed through into the 1990s. Recent events in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford demonstrate we still have a way to go.
The general duty to promote race equality has been strengthened. This gives human resources professionals a real opportunity to lead on modernising employment relations.
We should resist the urge to develop more complex process-driven responses to the new requirements, which only deliver in theory, leaving the majority of staff's experience unchanged. We were one of the first sectors to introduce monitoring, but that soon fell into disrepute when we failed to use the information to change things. Monitoring by itself is not the solution to the problem.
We need to use this opportunity to identify ways to modernise the working environment, so over time we can show local government is a place where the best from every community can thrive.
Councils who do not rise to the challenge will find themselves struggling to attract good candidates for jobs and failing to retain staff. Research carried out by Bartlett Merton shows inequality in the workplace affects the retention of all staff, including those who feel they are not directly affected.
The extension of the requirements to monitor recruitment, employment, progression and turnover should be used to obtain information on how effectively HR policies are working. It will give greater clarity on where improvements are needed in people management practices.
Surely, this is what we should be doing as part of our commitment to continuous improvement? Ultimately a fairer workplace will mean councils can attract and retain the best people, which will mean better service delivery.
After all, isn't this what we are all working for?
Francesca Okosi
Director, human resources, Brent LBC
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