UK businesses respond to a changing society

Businesses which have embraced the UK’s growing ethnic minority workforce will be recognised by a Bradford charity at the House of Lords later this month, sponsored by Bradford and Bingley.

On Tuesday 28 November 2006, QED UK, the leading community economic development social enterprise, will acknowledge almost 30 businesses which have committed to its innovative Employer Diversity Project. QED teamed up with Jobcentre Plus to deliver the initiative with the overall aim of improving the employment prospects of ethnic minorities in eight designated areas in England and Wales by raising employers’ awareness of the business case for diversity.

In total, 250 UK businesses registered on the EDP programme. 80 of these businesses, employing almost 35,000 employees across the Midlands, Yorkshire, North West, North East and Wales, have already benefited from this initiative. At the event, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham will acknowledge 27 companies, employing more than 18,000 people, which have committed to implementing diversity action plans. Three of these companies will receive special certificates for the best practice they have shown putting their plan into action.

QED UK Chief Executive Dr Mohammed Ali OBE highlights the benefits of adopting a diversity strategy: He said: “With an increasingly diverse society, it is predicted that in the next decade over half the growth in the working age population will come from ethnic minorities. As well as showing a commitment to your community, recruiting a diverse workforce has been proved to be more innovative and productive and, in turn, enhances a company’s image as modern and forward thinking. It also opens up a much larger and more diverse marketplace for a company to promote their products and services to.”

Companies of all sizes are increasingly expected to play a part in their local community, as part of their social responsibility, and are judged by customers and potential recruits on their performance. Proctor and Gamble, Barclays and the Royal Mail were some of the first companies to recognise the benefits of diversity.

KPMG, the leading provider of professional services sees diversity as a key issue for their business growth. Acknowledging both the social and business reasons for promoting diversity, they create a strategy encompassing the following: “Our long term diversity strategy is designed to deliver sustainable business-focused change which impacts on how we access and retain people and their talents, how we behave and how we gain access to new and changing markets and clients. Our values programme recognises that, in order to get the best from our people, we need a culture that supports and encourages them to contribute.”

But it is not just large UK corporates who have recognised the benefits of a diverse workforce. The Aldbourne Nursing Home in Wiltshire and Oldham-based Madeleine Lindley Ltd are just two of the smaller organisations who have committed to an Employer Diversity action plan with QED.

Guy Montezuma, General Manager of the Aldbourne Nursing Home in Wiltshire explains how QED’s diversity strategy has helped them. He said: “We have worked on diversity issues for more than eight years, focusing on creating a diverse work culture and encouraging people from all backgrounds to apply to work with us. I manage a team of 40, with 50% of the employees coming from more than 12 different countries. We have also employed more male carers since adopting the strategy, despite the industry being traditionally female-led.”

Complying with the Race Relations Act is another consideration for UK businesses. Dr Ali continued: “Legislation in the race area means that all public sector organisations will require their suppliers to be able to demonstrate active diversity policies and practices and to promote race equality. If more businesses commit to initiatives such as the Employer Diversity Project, UK businesses can begin to reflect the changing face of our society.”

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Name: Lizzie Wilson
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