New Equality Bill – Sometimes you read things that make you smile…

I imagine I’m like many operational HR professionals who read things surrounding HR issues and smile at the article. I often chuckle and think, why do they really work in HR or are they just debating things for the sake of it!

While reading an article in the Metro on April 28th 2009 I came across an article discussing the potential “New Equality Bill” asking the question, is it ‘unfair’ to male workers? The majority of the article makes sense apart from phases like “will be fair to discriminate against men applying…” Have we done a complete U turn from the days of saying this about female workers? It was only a few years ago when there was lots of noise and talk about getting rid of the possibility of these issues being raised. All the HR professionals I know would never appoint someone on the basis of gender or disability. What’s important is can they do the job, what skills have they got and at worse will they fit into the dynamics of the team.

The main quote that made me chuckle was straight to the point: “If they’ve got two equally qualified candidates, a man and a woman, they should be able to say… that we’re actually going to appoint the woman, said equalities minister Harriett Harman.” How is this different from a company paying a man more money for doing the same job as a woman. Surely they are both discriminating and if one is allowed why not the other? I don’t think Harriett Harman has worked in an operational role for a while because she would realise that you would never end up with the same candidate. Every person brings different views and skills to a business. If we are going to go down this route in HR then lets get rid of all the rules as no one will try to follow them due to no clear differences and guidance.

She claims it will “help businesses recover from the recession by tapping into new talent.” Is she saying that for the country to recover from the recession we need women in business or saying that women were neglected before the recession? As Harriett said, ‘New Talent’ but surely this comes from the person’s experiences, exposure to business markets and their personality and nothing to do with gender!

One of the final paragraphs was the best when she was summing up her article: “On top of this, there are risks that colleagues may think someone got their job due to their race, sex or disability which could cause significant friction at work…”. Well yes, they would have done and I can understand why colleagues would feel hard done by. So after years of changing how women work in businesses it looks like if this new law is past we will be back to the start.

Being a young male working in HR I’m often in the minority of the group gender, which makes up a HR team. Does it bother me, does it bother my colleagues? No, not due to gender issues. I have felt that members of a team don’t enjoy a young enthusiastic person coming in to make changes but this is nothing to do with gender. There are a lot more important issues surrounding employing a person, their skills, drive and passion are a few to list, so why are non-operational HR professionals so hung up on the issue of gender in the work place! Give it up and discuss something that really matters in a real business environment.

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