In 2007, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was established to ensure all members of society were safe from discrimination in the work place. As the institution that is responsible for upholding equalities laws, a diverse workforce is essential. In a bid to meet the budget cuts imposed by the coalition government, the EHRC is being slashed to just over 40% of its original size, and many of those who are set to lose their jobs fall into the minority groups that the government body was set up to protect.
Women, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities represent a large portion of EHRC members who will lose their jobs this year. While many are due to receive generous redundancy packages after taking voluntary redundancy, there are concerns that the EHRC may be about to make further job cuts in the autumn. These cuts contradict the promises made by the coalition government to improve diversity in the workplace. With a lack of representation for ethnic minorities at a managerial level in the EHRC, the major concern is that the commission’s existence has become somewhat redundant.
When it was initially established in 2007, the EHRC had a budget of £70 million. Following recent spending cuts, that budget has formally been reduced to £26 million, and it has recently emerged that those who run the government body have set a new annual budget of £18 million. Such cuts will allow for the EHRC to retain fewer representatives than the former commission for Racial Equality and Disability Rights.
One of the major criticisms of the staff reductions has been aimed at the all-white management that is set to come into place next month. As chairman Trevor Phillips is set to retire from his position next month, the new managerial team will consist purely of people who are white.
The cuts imposed on the EHRC have also caused concern with the United Nations (UN). Due to the lack of BAME representation within the body, the UN are now considering retracting its “A-Status”. The UN have stated that the commission may now be too small to qualify for such status, and such a statement has acted as a formal recognition of its demise.
The number of commissioners representing the EHRC are now due to be reduced from 14 to eight. Those who currently hold commissioner positions have been warned that they should expect to re-apply for their positions, and the employment criteria has attracted criticism from equal rights campaigners. Rather than focusing on candidates who have a background in equality, the EHRC is placing emphasis on financial, legal, and business qualifications. This means that the focus of those who work at a managerial level in the EHRC could focus on business practicalities, rather than maintaining a sense of social inclusion across British workplaces.
As concerns about the EHRC’s lack of BAME representation at managerial level continue, chief executive Mark Hammond has continued to defend the budget cuts. It remains to be seen whether the management of the commission will represent those it has been set up to represent at all.