Harry Gaskell, Managing Partner - Advisory Service, Ernst & Young, says there is a lack of clarity and inconsistency in businesses’ efforts to tackle inequality and diversity.

Ernst & Young pens national equality standard

At Ernst & Young we pride ourselves on making a difference on issues around equality, diversity and inclusion. That is why six months ago we launched a working group in order to develop a National Equality Standard (NES). I am delighted to announce that the NES has now been drafted and, following consultation, we will be rolling it out in early 2013.

What drove us to develop a NES was the absence of a recognised industry led standard. That gap has led to a lack of clarity and inconsistency in businesses’ efforts to tackle inequality and diversity. What the business community needs is a robust diversity standard that sits in one place and provides businesses with a range of indicators that will help drive sustainable change and demonstrate exceptional practice.

So how is it going to work in practice? The NES will set clear diversity objectives and bring together all elements of the Equality Act 2010. In order for an organisation to be assessed, an audit of the organisation will be conducted by trained auditors and if all the diversity requirements have been satisfied the organisation will be awarded a national certification.

In this effort to create a business led and legally sound standard we have been working closely with the Equality & Human Rights Commission, the CBI, and are also supported by the Home Office. In addition, a number of leading UK companies sit on the board of the National Equality Standard – Microsoft, BT Group, RBS, WPP, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, EDF Energy to name a few – and Sir David Bell has been appointed as the non-executive chair of the board.

Arun Batra is leading the development of the NES. Arun is a former director at the Mayor of London’s development agency and has recently been recognised as one of Britain’s most influential Asians for leading the establishment of the NES.

As a business community, and as a society, we have come a long way in our approach to equality and diversity. This journey, however, comes with its own complexities and implications. A fast-moving, globalised labour market means an ever-more diverse workforce all of whom need to feel included if they are to thrive.

This unique collaboration of industry specialists has joined forces to make the difference in Diversity &Inclusion in not only a cohesive way, but in a way that makes sense for businesses.

Individuals in business, also, have an active role to play if diversity is to be at the core of our business strategy. Employers have the duty to encourage ideas about different groups to be brought into work and help build some sense of community.

Having those kinds of conversations is the only way to drop barriers and create the culture necessary for our people to come to work in the morning and feel empowered, and as a result empower our the UK’s businesses.

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