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Labour’s first 100 days: What HR wants from DEI

The party’s election manifesto focused on pay gap reporting and helping more disabled people into work

The UK's new government should be ambitious about closing gender pay gaps, changing negative perceptions and revising the rhetoric on diversity initiatives, our HR commentators have said.

Jemima Olchawski, CEO of gender equality charity Fawcett Society, praised the new government’s focus on closing pay gaps and improving parental leave.

She told HR magazine: “Labour’s manifesto embraced policies that Fawcett has campaigned hard for. That will be important in driving change for women. We're pleased and proud to see commitments to making flexible working the default, making firms take action to close their gender pay gaps, ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting, and improving parental leave.”

But the scale of the challenge is considerable, Olchawski warned: “The task ahead is huge. For these policies to bring the change women so desperately need, Labour must be ambitious in delivery and put in place meaningful penalties for employers who choose not to comply.”

Read more: Labour's first 100 days: What HR wants from employment law

The Labour Party has pledged to introduce its 'new deal for working people' within its first 100 days in government. The party’s election manifesto promised to introduce mandatory disability and ethnicity pay gap reporting, and help more disabled people into work.

During the election campaign, the party also stated that it would work with local areas to create plans for supporting disabled people into work, as well as tackle the backlog of Access to Work claims. The new government also hopes to improve employment support and access to reasonable adjustments.

Labour pledged to review the parental leave system within its first year in government, and introduce an additional 3,000 nurseries by upgrading space in primary schools.

However, Olchawski feels this does not go fair enough: “Labour must set out much more ambitious plans on childcare if it is to be truly affordable, accessible, and reduce inequality. The announced increase in places is a welcome start. Next we need investment in the workforce to deliver those places. 

“Our childcare system needs rescue and then radical reform so that all children can benefit, not just those whose parents are already in work.”

Paul Sesay, founder of membership body Inclusive Companies, said the new government should also focus on shifting negative attitudes around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Under the conservative government, ex-health secretary Steve Barclay had ordered the NHS to stop recruiting for roles solely focused on diversity and inclusion. Kemi Badenoch, the previous secretary of state for business and trade, commissioned a panel to consult with employers on the efficacy and value for money of DEI initiatives in the workplace.

Read more: Labour's Manifesto: What HR needs to know

Sesay said: “The Labour government must revise the rhetoric on diversity initiatives within the civil service and public sector. The previous administration's stance that public funds should not support diversity initiatives overlooked the considerable benefits – such as enhanced innovation, improved decision-making and increased public trust – that these initiatives bring to public service.

“A forward-thinking approach would see these diversity initiatives implemented with pragmatism, emphasising measurable outcomes and evidence-based practices to clearly demonstrate their value. This would ensure these initiatives are both efficient and beneficial, aligning with public expectations and fiscal responsibility.”