Race discrimination code_2

Agencies face discrimination code

Most staff in recruitment firms may feel they're already doing enough to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race.

But the issue is about to take on a whole new dimension. From 6 April, recruitment firms must start to implement the Commission for Racial Equality's (CRE) new Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Employment.

While the code is not law, it has “statutory status”. This means that its provisions can be referred to at an industrial tribunal hearing.

Speaking at a Recruitment Society event in London this month, CRE commissioner Ian Barr said a racially diverse workforce was “an inevitability”.

The traditional workforce of white males is declining to the point where towards the end of the decade one in two entrants to the workforce will be from an ethnic minority background. In London, one in three new entrants will be a Muslim.

Barr highlighted the role of recruitment agencies, which he said had sometimes been used by employers as a “shield”. Employers could make it clear they did not want to see any black or Asian candidates, thereby essentially asking recruitment agencies to discriminate for them, he said.

But other agencies had “just assumed” that the employer would not want non-white candidates.

Chapters three and four of the code spell out responsibilities of employers in implementing it.

Chapter five spells out agencies' responsibilities and states: “In their role as employers, employment and recruitment agencies have all the responsibilities outlined in chapters three and four. They also have responsibilities as suppliers of job applicants and workers to other employers.”

It is already unlawful for agencies to publish job advertisements that suggest or could be taken to suggest that applications from certain racial groups will not be considered.

Addressing a business breakfast meeting this month, CRE chairman Trevor Phillips said further legislation might be necessary.

“If the law stands in the way of the workforce being diverse, perhaps we need to think about whether it's the right law,” he said.

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