Letter: CBI committed to equal opportunities at work

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The Independent Online
YOU REPORTED that the CBI was preparing to abandon its commitment to equal opportunities ('Employers prepare to ditch equal opportunities at work', 14 February).

This is not the case. The working paper from which your article selectively quoted was designed to elicit our members' views on how to take forward equal opportunities issues in a period of high unemployment. The paper noted that in the late 1980s, when employers were concerned about skill shortages, there was a strong economic logic propelling even the less enthusiastic employers towards the development of equal opportunities policies, especially in recruitment. Now that pressure is reduced and many employers are not recruiting at all. What can be done to maintain progress towards a more balanced workforce, which fairly represents the skills of all parts of our community?

That question is important because while the increase in numbers of female part-time workers has continued it is less clear that the hopeful trend towards opening full-time, skilled opportunities for women has materialised, and there is only patchy evidence of enhanced childcare provision. Meanwhile, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and ex-offenders all complain of worsening, not improving, prospects. And among young people, unemployment in ethnic minorities is much higher than among the white population.

Those are the issues we are now addressing. The paper suggests that to maintain progress it may be necessary for the Government to reconsider its attitudes to, for example, promoting the provision of childcare, or job release programmes for older workers.

There is no quesiton, therefore, of the CBI weakening its commitment to equal opportunities policies. Rather we are seeking ways of maintaining momentum in very difficult economic circumstances.

Howard Davies

Director-General, CBI

London WC1