New scheme to help small firms with equality law
Contractors are being asked to sign up to a fully-funded pilot scheme set up to make it easier for construction firms to ensure they meet or exceed equality and diversity legislation.
The Built Environment Framework for Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (BE FaIR) has been developed by campaign group Constructing Equality in partnership with CITB-Construction Skills as an alternative to existing equality and diversity standards such as Investors in Diversity and Diversity for London.
It aims to simplify compliance with legislation and reduce associated costs for smaller firms by offering a range of different framework standards depending on the size and type of company signing up.
Four main standards cover legislation that applies to the private sector; additional duties for the public sector; a bespoke approach for companies with specific aspirations and a standard for companies aiming for “excellence”.
There are also different approaches for large and medium main contractors, medium and small sub-contractors, housing associations that develop properties and non-developing HAs.
The framework will offer best practice guidance on recruitment, training, promotion, remuneration, work-life balance and subcontracting work.
A pilot scheme is due to start next month and is expected to include 10 main contractors and 120 SMEs, ahead of an official September launch. Wates, Vinci and Willmott Dixon have already signed up, but the organisers want to hear from smaller firms who are most likely to benefit.
“Using a single specific equality and diversity framework for the whole industry just doesn’t work – how can you ask a main contractor that employs over 2,000 people to fulfil the same requirements as a sub-contractor that employs less than 10?” said Christine McCarthy, director at Constructing Equality.
“Our various framework standards are clear and easy to follow, and come with a range of supporting documents so firms don’t have to worry about employing consultants or a lawyer to prepare a policy, which we estimate could save the average firm around £2,000-£3,000. Each standard is tailored to be specific to the resources a firm has, the type of clients they have, and their sub-contractors, all of which has an impact on how staff and people associated with the company are treated,” she said.
Large public sector clients have already shown interest in the BE FaIR framework, said McCarthy, and the aim is now to sign up around 60 medium-sized contractors and 60 small contractors.