>Why I took on a Dragon

>Yesterday I had one the most surreal conversations I’ve ever been involved in so far. There needs to be some context behind this post though. On Friday 1st October 2010, the Equality Act was introduced in the UK. There’s been a lot of expectation about what this new Act will mean for employment legislation. Essentially it brings together all previous employment legislation into one Act, and with it all relating terminologies and nuances. If you want to know more please visit the Acas website.

In truth what this means is in the main, HR folk, employment law specialists and anyone involved in recruitment have one point of reference in regards to equal practices across all groups that may want to enter the workforce.
On the same Friday, Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne wrote an article in the Daily Mail expressing his thoughts on the new Act and what he thinks it holds for UK businesses. You can read that here. On Monday, a lively exchange ensued between Duncan Bannatyne and someone from the HR community (Darren Newman).
Darren wrote a post for XpertHR. One of the Editor’s of this site is Michael Carty (who is quite possibly the kindest man I know). He posted a request to Duncan Bannatyne through Twitter asking him if he’d like to respond. Duncan’s response was “I would need to read it first and I can’t be bothered”. Here’s that exchange.
This is where I come bounding in. I like Michael, he’s a nice guy. I don’t like when good people get trounced on for no reason. I am also very conscious about the sensitivities that sit around Equality, Diversity and all topics that fall under this. I’ve written past posts on

Diversity and about banter. And there are a myriad of experts in the field who will defend the importance of this legislation, and rightly so.

So I called out Duncan and here’s my exchange with him. I’ve been watching the conversation unfold over the last few days and have really had to hold back in commenting on anything to do with this topic. Well that didn’t happen! In the grand scheme of things, my little exchange with Duncan means nothing and there will be far more important people discussing the ins and outs of the Equality Act than either Duncan or me.
But – BUT – here’s the thing. Employment legislation causes a lot of anguish for a lot of people in businesses because they don’t take the requisite time to understand what the Act offers. So here’s common misconceptions people hold – and I have heard first hand:
1) I’m a white heterosexual male and I’m now in the minority
2) Laws like this only allow other cultures to take advantage of our society
3) But there are people who will use laws like this to make false claims
4) Laws like this make political correctness go mad
5) If someone overhears my conversation they can claim a grievance?
6) Why can’t people just mind their own business
And there are many many more. What’s annoying about the comments above is that the people who make those comments have zero clue what they’re talking about. They’ve read something in a newspaper, taken it as gospel, and formulate an opinion based on misinformation.
What Duncan Bannatyne has served to do is only feed into the insecurities of a lot of people who think that minority groups in the UK have far too much protection already. What his article does not help is inclusion, a multi-cultural society, the Big Society, or any other high and lofty ideals we might hold for being British.
As a high profile successful businessman in the UK, Duncan Bannatyne will never admit he’s been misinformed about what the Equality Act aims to achieve. He’s been told what the Act could mean for those in society who are malicious enough to act in disgusting ways. He’s taken that and decided he’s going to speak out against the Act.
That’s fine. Free speech and all that. The sad thing is that he thinks he’s done a good thing for readers of the Daily Mail. He thinks that he’s helped people see the folly of the old Labour government and that he’s unravelled the Equality Act to be a simple piece of nothing. He thinks that he’s educating people and helping them to understand the true motivations of the Equality Act.
What he hasn’t done is help people to see how disadvantaged groups of people have had to fight hard battles to secure a positive future for themselves. He’s made reference to the ‘Made in Dagenham’ film and subsequent laws which have been introduced to help minority groups, and then says we’ve gone too far to help them. To this day, minority groups face hardships Duncan Bannatyne can only conceptually perceive. Even I am sheltered from a lot of hardships faced by people from within my own community.
My plea is this. Before you get on a high horse and defend how ‘British’ you are, or how minorty groups are now favoured above you, think about who is the recipient of your message. Before you actively stand up against a Law which is in place to ensure we have a fair open society, think about which ‘good’ you’re trying to serve. The topic of equality and diversity will never go away. It will always be there. And there will be staunch advocates as well as staunch rebellions. Ultimately though, it’s about a society where we can live and work together with open and fair practices for all. No one should have to be subject to harassment, discrimination or bullying for any reason.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

6 thoughts on “>Why I took on a Dragon”

  1. >I am not taking sides on this and I am not expert on the Equality Act, but, for me, your last sentence seems to have invalidated much of your well-articulated augment."No one should have to be subject to harassment, discrimination or bullying for any reason."Absolutely! The key there being: "no one".A crime is a crime no matter the ethnicity, sex, colour, religion or ability of the victim.Obviously discrimination is a sticky issue with clear boundaries needing to be drawn to delimit that which is acceptable and that which is not. However, there are laws that clearly legislate against certain behaviours; treating an assault against a woman, or a black man, any differently from any other form of assault only serves to highlight the differences between people.Surely we should strive to treat everyone absolutely equally, irrespective of our cosmetic, genetic or social differences. Do we need additional legislation that highlights things that make us different from each other?I am reminded of the 2008 drinking ban on the London Underground. Ostensibly, it was to prevent certain types of antisocial behaviour, but these behaviours are already legislated against and the law only served to hound those that were capable of drinking on the tube without negatively impacting others.Some laws simply do not achieve that which they set out to achieve.Many of the objections from the white heterosexual male "minority" would be completely quashed by universal and equal application of law. Specifically targeted legislation only serves to highlight differences to this type of person.Society ultimately has to move away from defining differences through law, to a more inclusive framework of universally acceptable behaviour for all. This is a utopian ideal at best and if I knew how to get there, I would be the proud holder of a Nobel Peace Prize.Maybe this type of legislation is an inevitable and necessary step in that direction, but specific legislation like this, while striving for equality, cannot ever deliver equality because of the very nature of the inequality it tries to address.If a set of scales are imbalanced, you will never achieve balance by adding equal weight to each side. An imbalance can only be redressed by the addition of equal and opposite imbalance."But Mum, she is getting more than me!"Dug

  2. >@ DugThanks very much for taking the time to comment Dug. I think you make a valid point in regards to the legislation being an unfortunate necessity. Ideally it would be great to think that companies are capable of recognising and rewarding people on their merits. Unfortunately, the workforce is made up of a diverse range of people and they bring with them their own histories/prejudices/upbringings and this all has an impact on those they have to work with.It'd be great to think at some point that legislation such as the Equality Act can become redundant. I suspect though that unless we can better integrate as a society and accept differences without judgement this won't happen.

  3. >A lot depends on the personal style of the therapist. Some are rather assertive, challenging the things you say almost aggressively. Others are much more laid back to the point of seeming almost passive, offering little obvious direction to the session.

  4. >@ psychologist thanks for your comments. I think though this comment was meant for my 'Assertiveness is not trainable' post.In respect to your comment though, I agree it does depend on the style of the 'therapist' as you say. For me, it's about displaying the behaviours for my delegates to recognise and break it down so they can understand how to act assertively appropriately. It's not easy, and involves a lot of self awareness on the part of the individual who wants to be assertive. The training only offers awareness, the rest is up to the individual.

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