UK: Equality Inquiries Announced In The Construction And Financial Service Sector

Last Updated: 7 January 2009
Article by Val Dougan

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently announced sectoral inquiries into the construction and financial service sector. Although the predominant focus in the construction industry will be race and the financial sector will be gender, the remit in both may extend depending on the evidence the Inquiry collects.

The recent press release from the EHRC provides some insight into the areas under investigation. In this article we have summarised the key issues, along with some suggestions on how employers should prepare.

Employers should take action since these Inquiries have wide ranging powers, including asking employers to give oral evidence or produce documentation. At the end of the process the Inquiry will produce best practice recommendations for employers to follow. If they find evidence of discrimination they can launch a formal investigation, although this seems unlikely.

There is likely to be media interest both during and at the conclusion of the Inquiry - and the mere fact of the ECHR's press release and the statistics it uses may well be relied upon by claimants to suggest a backdrop of inappropriate conduct. But, statistics can be a blunt tool and only tell part of the story. Employers should take the initiative and be able to explain clearly the steps taken on diversity matters. Diversity has been viewed as integral to business success with resources invested in this area for a number of years, particularly so in the financial services sector. Yet this investment does not appear to have translated universally into positive results across the board. Some statistics indicate that the financial services sector has the largest gender pay gap with far fewer women in senior roles. The construction industry acknowledges that there is a need to bring more women and ethnic minorities into the workforce. The recently appointed Chief Executive of ConstructionSkills explained in an interview with Building Magazine that "Diversity in the workforce is probably the key medium-to-long-term issue for the industry."

Issues Under Examination In The Financial Services Sector

  • Gender And Racial Impact Of Redundancies

    "The Inquiries will examine whether redundancies are disproportionately affecting women and ethnic minorities."
  • Public Sector Procurement And Diversity

    "They will also look at whether more diverse companies are more successful as they can deliver better services and are more likely to benefit from public sector contracts."
  • Largest Pay Gap And Glass Ceiling Issues

    "The financial services industry has the largest pay gap between men and women in the private sector at 41.5%, with far fewer women in senior roles than in other sectors."
  • High Levels Of Sexual Harassment

    "The Inquiry will examine the underlying causes as well as reports of a high level of sexual harassment."
  • Female Executive Participation

    "I know many employers have benefitted from the business opportunities created when their staff includes talented women. US research shows that Fortune 500 companies with more women on the Board achieve on average far higher return on equity than those with minimal female representation."
  • Flexible Working

    "Unfortunately current evidence suggest that in financial services the aspiration of talented female employees often gives way to frustration as they come up against he barriers of outdated work practices. Genuinely flexible working – working smarter, often through informally agreed changes to the organisation of work, not rigid, inflexible patterns provides business opportunities to deal with turbulent times."
  • Sharing Best Practice

    We plan to make a difference in both these sectors by using practical evidence of the benefits of good practice to help all companies learn from the best."

The scope of the financial services sector inquiry covers a number of sensitive areas for employers. In order to avoid damaging headlines, employers should take steps to prepare for the Inquiry. We have listed some suggestions below.

Preparing For The Inquiry – Financial Services

  • Statistics identifying gender breakdown in various roles including the gender breakdown of any recent redundancies needs to be prepared and, crucially, analysed and acted upon.
  • Evidence to demonstrate that the company is trying to increase the amount of women in senior roles would be beneficial.
  • If an equal pay audit has not been undertaken consideration should be given about this and consideration of any other steps which have been taken to identify the company's gender pay gap across different levels of the organisation and any measures which the company has in place to address this.
  • Collating information on sexual harassment cases and identifying if there are any risks, issues or trends which the company can identify and put measures in place to prevent, including training and policy awareness.
  • The gender breakdown of flexible working requests and the impact that flexibility has on attrition and turnover, particularly at higher levels of the workforce.
  • Procurement issues and diversity – looking at the information the company provides as part of the tender process for public sector work and developing this.
  • Reviewing the diversity information from sources such as the staff survey and any action planning which has taken place from this. Because this is confidential and up to date this sort of information would be very helpful.

Construction Industry

Whilst the press release says rather less about the scope of the construction industry inquiry, it is clear that race relations and migrant workers are the main areas of concern for the EHRC. In line with the Equality Bill's focus on procurement, the EHRC also plan to examine and explain the business benefits of equality in the context of winning public sector work. Areas identified within the press release include:-

  • Recruitment And Monitoring In The Construction Industry

    "Only two-and-a-half per cent of workers in the construction industry are from ethnic minorities, compared to eight per cent of the workforce as a whole." ...."If employers get their recruitment practices right they are far more likely to won lucrative public sector contracts.
  • Race Discrimination And Procurement Practices

    "The Inquiry will focus on race discrimination but issues such as procurement practices"
  • Treatment Of Migrant Workers

    "....and the treatment of migrant workers may form part of the inquiry recommendations."
  • Gender Discrimination

    The scope of the Inquiry may also extend to cover other areas such as gender discrimination as further evidence emerges.

So what can employers do to prepare in the construction industry? Some of the analysis gathering measures are similar to the financial services sector, with our additional suggestions below.

Preparing For The Inquiry – The Construction Industry

  • Reviewing ethnic monitoring arrangements currently in place both in terms of direct employees and arrangements operated by entities contracted to supply labour only sub-contractors.
  • Collating statistics identifying levels of migrant workers and a list of grievances or complaints raised by migrant workers.
  • Pulling together information to demonstrate that the company are adhering to the key aspects of the ECHR (previously the CRE's) Statutory Code of Practice on Racial Equality in Employment.
  • Collating information on racial harassment complaints (if any) and identifying if there are any risks, issues or trends which the company can discern and put measures in place to prevent, including training and policy awareness.

Val Dougan
Dundas & Wilson CS LLP

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions