Equalities Minister Vera Baird has announced plans for a new benchmarking and improvement tool to help businesses better understand equality legislation and set them on a path towards best practice.

The National Equality Framework for Business will allow companies to carry out a “self-assessment” test to measure how well they are doing in tackling inequality at work.

As well as allowing businesses to see whether they meet minimum standards, the framework, which will be accessible online, will help employers see what else they could do to make their workplace more diverse and attract the widest possible range of  customers.

Equalities Minister and Solicitor General Vera Baird said:

“The economy that will succeed in the future is not one that’s blinkered by prejudice and marred by discrimination, but one that draws on the talents of everybody. The National Equality Framework for Business will help make this a reality, not only by giving businesses the support they need to meet their legal obligations but also by encouraging companies to aspire to further improvements.

“Many small businesses are already tackling inequality in the workplace without even realising it – for example by offering flexible hours to people with childcare commitments. The Framework will give credit where it is due and help businesses identify other ways in which they can help themselves and release the benefits which are available to them.

“It is the first time anything like this has been attempted across Britain, and I look forward to seeing the improvements it leads to for businesses.”

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is working with business organisations including British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and manufacturers’ organisation the EEF to ensure the National Equality Framework for Business is a practical tool that really meets the needs of employers.

David Frost, Director General at the British Chambers of Commerce said:

“Employers tell me they really struggle getting to grips with more complex employment legislation so anything the Government can do to give business access to good, clear advice is welcome. The Equality Toolkit that GEO are proposing will certainly go some way to alleviating the concerns of business regarding equality legislation.”

The framework for business will allow companies to plot themselves along a three-point “curve of compliance”, taking them from basic compliance with legal minimums, through best practice and on to exemplary performance.  It will:

  • Recognise continuous improvement, as opposed to a static accreditation. This will help businesses to move on up the scale from compliance to exemplar, if they choose to do so.
  • Be publicly available and readily available to business. Diverse businesses are successful businesses, so it’s important that even the smallest firm is able to access the framework at little or no cost.
  • Be usable without requiring external verification. This is a self-assessment tool designed to be used internally and will align with services available from equality specialists where business finds this helpful. Although the framework encourages transparency, users will not be compelled to publish their results.

GEO will work with EHRC, the business sector, equality stakeholders and equality specialists during this development phase which is expected to last approximately 12 months.