Equality or 'Transparency Tyranny'?

Last Updated Jun 26, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

The Workplace Law Network explains how the draft Equality Bill, 'Framework for a Fairer Future', could affect UK employers and their teams.

It aims to "de-clutter" complex discrimination laws and bring them together under the heading of 'Equality Duty'. It also zeroes in on weak spots in those current rules -- ageism, homophobia and disability discrimination are still going unchecked, according to Equality Minister Harriet Harman.

Key proposals

  • Employers to report on equality matters such as pay and diversity. (According to Francis Gibb, Harman was pushing for compulsory pay audits.)
  • Positive discrimination OK for for women or minority job candidates if it comes down to a 'tie-breaker'.
  • No more ageism in the provision of services.
  • Employers cannot outlaw discussion of pay.
  • Tribunals can rule for the benefit of not just an individual, but the whole workforce of a discriminating employer.
  • The government will investigate how multiple complaints can be brought -- say, if someone claims discrimination as a disabled woman.
  • Public-sector purchasing will promote the equality agenda through through procurement.
It's all voluntary -- at least for now -- so employers' organisation the CBI is broadly approving.

But all this talk of openness makes me think of Trendwatching's Transparency Tyranny.

Surely all this disclosure can go too far. Or is it just a case of careful training, so that line managers can handle the tricky conversations that ensue when X finds out that Y is earning more -- not because of some unfounded prejudice, but because Y is better at their job.

As entrepreneur John Timpson once said, not everyone is equal. (He even admits to 'discriminating against drongos'.) But perhaps it's not the employer's place to exacerbate those inequalities any more than necessary. As you can tell, I'm on the fence on this one.

But employees up for letting it all hang out can have their say, too, by visiting Glassdoor.com -- which reveals what employees think of companies, what they pay and how the CEO is rated.