Anti-discrimination laws have been golden eggs for politicians looking to endear themselves to the general public in the UK. According to them, they provide a platform for the disabled, former criminals, and the elderly to find work again.
That’s all well and good, but the sad thing is it doesn’t actually work. We’ll look at the proportion of disabled people in work as an example. The Labour Force Survey said that there was still a 30.1% point gap between disabled and non-disabled people in work. This has remained almost entirely stable since the Equality Act.
The Equality Act of 2010 is the main vehicle for providing equal rights within recruiting and the workplace. The government also provides clear guidance on discrimination in recruiting and continues to bang on about it in the media.
So let’s look at why the numbers haven’t really changed despite the fact new legislation has come in.
There’s Little Appetite
The truth is firms don’t particularly care about having such a diverse workforce. Racism-based discrimination has largely disappeared, but discrimination based on gender, age, and disability still continues unabated.
A lot of firms simply don’t care about this legislation or purposely making sure that their workforce is as diverse as possible. They only care about getting the best person for the job.
We can see this using an example from the legal industry. Thousands of law firms (about 20%) missed the deadline on submitting diversity data for their workforces, reported the Law Gazette. They blatantly ignored the deadline and didn’t do anything about it.
And the regulator is essentially toothless. It’s unlikely to act on these firms or do anything about it to prevent this in the future. One in five firms accounts for thousands of workers.
When you think about it, why should employers care?
They only have a duty to themselves and to put food on the table for their families. We have to discard this idea that employers have some sort of obligation to us. They don’t. They’re private companies with their own private interests.
The Burden of Proof
The burden of proof argument is difficult. If you feel you have been discriminated against, it’s up to you to prove this. You can bring a case against a firm for alleged discrimination, but there’s no guarantee you’ll win.
To start with, you have to prove that you have sufficient grounds to believe you have been discriminated against.
According to a European Union law blog, there’s no onus on an employer to disclose reasons why they didn’t choose to hire an applicant. The only cases where this would be necessary would be if there was a legal case brought because there’s sufficient proof there was discrimination.
Claimants can switch the burden of proof to the firm, but they first have to bear this burden of proof. It’s a complex and stressful process that makes it easy for employers to essentially discount someone for any reason.
These anti-discrimination policies are practically impossible to enforce outside of a few specific situations.
And the most basic reason of all is there’s nothing stopping an employer from simply making up a reason.
Let’s say that an employer actively discriminated against someone and decided to hire someone else based on origin. All this employer has to do is say they felt the other person’s personality was better suited to the job, and that they made a more positive impression.
That’s a perfectly valid reason and it hides any sense that the person was discriminated against, when they in fact were.
Attempting to prove this becomes impossible. Employers only have to lie when challenged and all anti-discrimination laws become unusable. That’s exactly why current anti-discrimination laws are all talk and no substance.
Image Credit: Flickr user thivierr