Equalities – it’s just political correctness gone mad, or is it?

On the radio yesterday morning there was a discussion of some interest about Health and Safety in the workplace. During the subsequent phone-in, I was hearing comments that remind me of many meetings with employers and small/medium business owners who equate issues of health and safety with equality and diversity. I have often been told that both are red tape interventions by government (or Europe) demanding unsustainable legislative compliance, thus demonstrating how little politicians and bureaucrat understand of the affairs of businesses today.

My guess is that it the same people who moan that “it’s health and safety gone mad” would also be the ones to say “it’s just political correctness, gone mad”. What do the two issues have in common, I wonder?

Not being a specialist in matters of H&S, I feel disinclined to make much comment about it, except to say that all people in the workplace have the right to work in a safe environment and that it is incumbent on employers to ensure their safety. Whether some of the requirements are excessive is a matter for discussion between employers, employees, unions, insurers and the Health and Safety Executive, perhaps even politicians.

Equality and Diversity is not the same and should not be considered a Political issue at all, neither should it be considered a simple case of meeting requirements as laid down by equality legislation. It is actually a moral and ethical issue, not one of political correctness, just correctness. It is about social justice, fairness, equity and rights and should never be equated with health and safety, even when there is some overlap.

Every person is entitled to equality of treatment and recognition of their personal human rights. Certainly, there are some aspect of human rights that are open to discussion; issues written about in previous articles in this blog; for instance should prisoners have the right to vote, or complexities that occur when one person’s right impinges on another’s.

It is the duty of us all to ensure we live and work in a fair and equitable society, where all have equal rights and opportunities? Such a place should not be considered a utopian dream, never to be realised. Indeed, it is just around the corner and can be achieved. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our own behaviour and have the confidence to challenge a situation we see as unfair, even when we are not the victim – it might be us next time.

So if, in the future, you find yourself about to say “it’s just political correctness gone mad” stop and think is it political correctness, or just correctness.

About equalityedge

I run Equality Edge and its unique and creative "Working with Difference" project. It supports employers and managers in gaining a competitive and cost saving advantage from meeting equality and diversity best practice obligations. Coaching and workshops are used to deliver organisational, team and leadership development, assisting in improving communication and the understanding of the impact difference has on workplace behaviour.
This entry was posted in age equality, beyond diversity, disability equality, discrimination, Equality & Diversity, Equality Act, gender equality, inequality, management, Prejudice, race equality, Sexism, Sexuality equality. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Equalities – it’s just political correctness gone mad, or is it?

  1. Sitting on a trian last night coming back from London a group of four people were on the table behind mine as I sat in first class. Two women, two men – all senior management, the two women clearly HR. The majority of the conversation was dominated by one of the guys (who to give you a flavour of his arrogance sounded like the actor Jack Davenport) – he consistently put down and talked over any the counterpoints or opinions of the others, especially two HR women. They were discussing staff and business management issues – employment legislation was clearly an inconvenience for them and as they talked about various staff members and how they fitted or didn’t fit the organisation (and what they’d do about it) I thought about how machiavellian the whole discussion was. These were peoples lives being cast around like so much flotsam – and I thought about the poor souls who often present at my door with emotional distress and anxiety – “I think my employer is setting me up to fail, trying to get rid of me – do you think I’m being paranoid?” “I met all my targets last year but my manager has put me on an improvement plan – I get the feeling its personal” We know it happens – we hear it from the managers who actally have a conscience, being forced to act in immoral or illegal ways by thier managers who themselves come to us with work-related stress issues. Legislation is only a problem if you want to break it and fear getting caught. Let’s keep fighting for fairness and justice.

  2. Marc Brenman says:

    Supporting the perception (which I do not agree with) that diversity efforts are “political correctness” gone mad is a new study from the US which finds that a substantial percent of white men feel that affirmative action efforts are racism against them. “In The New York Times, George Mason University Law Professor David E. Berstein offered an explanation: “While affirmative action advocates don’t perceive of such preferences as anti-white discrimination, many whites do. Given the overt nature of such preferences, and many whites’ own perceived self-interest in the matter, it’s not terribly surprising that whites subjectively perceive discrimination against members of their own group as an especially significant and growing problem, even though, objectively speaking, bias against blacks is far more pervasive, problematic and ill-intentioned.”” Of course, diversity efforts are not at all this sort of quota or preference-based affirmative action. Nevertheless, there is apparently some confusion in the common white male mind. This points to the need for practitioners to be clear about what is being done.

  3. Sanjeev Sahgal says:

    This is a good thought and we that this is a top topic in politics or business. However, in my discussion with one of my colleague was enlightening – and it was a different perspective. If you look around nature you will realize that we were not made equal, the Darwinian theory applies to nature and hence to all of us. The world was never made to be equal – ~ less than 10% of earths land holds 70% or petroleum or ice caps. Less than 10% of the people hold greater that 60% of wealth or power. And that is something that makes life interesting, it is hard to imagine a world where everyone had a Rolls Royce to drive or just a cycle to drive, a world where everone was a super athlete, a world where everone owned a sea facing villa or if everone was a scientist. So we all work with inequalities to make our life interesting and that should not stop.
    The question then is how do we get comfortable with this inequality and develop a ecosystem where everyone can enjoy what they are doing and live their life to full!

  4. I worked for the CAB for 6 years doing equalities and social policy work.
    Also within the NHS, making sure that people receive the proper treatment and get treated with dignity
    But what i find is that we are being made to look to much at difference which is causing chaos. When in fact we should be celebrating difference, this way we would be learning from each other and working on making the world a better place.
    People want to be looked at and treated for who they are not placed in compartments an and expected to fit.

  5. Chris Markiewicz says:

    Interesting piece and subsequent discussion which prompts one or two thoughts of my own.
    Like it or not, most of us like to be around “people like us” and, indeed organisations (often unconsciously) will feel most comfortable recruiting “people like them” ie: in a certain mould that “fits” the culture. This can manifest in the most surprising of ways. I’ll illustrate with an experience I had a few years ago. I went to meet a friend of mine who was working on a long term contract with a hi tech company in Hampshire. I was early, so settled down to wait the reception area. It was going home time and people were leaving for the day. Being quite the people watcher, I was observing people as they were leaving. I was then struck by the fact that every single male employee was short! None will have been more than 5′ 7″ or so in height. Indeed, my friend was himself short in stature.

    Now, could this organisation be accused of being “heightist” – statistically, I guess so although I’m not expert in such fields to know whether any law will have been broken given an apparent disctrimination against tall males. Yet, there is every chance this “heightism” will have been unconscious.

    Yes, it is important that there is legislation to guard against active, conscious discrimination and abuse. Even more important though, I think is the process of re-education and awareness building as to the very real benefits of a diverse workforce where those very differences add to the creativity, vibrancy and ultimate success of an organisation.

    I am registered disabled with a visual impairment and work on a self employed basis. I can’t prove this but there is every chance potential clients have turned me down for work because of my disability. That, as far as I know would be illegal. However, if they are afraid (ironically, due to H&S laws!) of
    a)my having an accident
    b) my reporting them because they hadn’t made adequate provision for someone with my disability
    c) that people will not take to me because I am different,

    then they will likely go with the “safe” option of an able bodied person or “person like us”. I hate to say it, but its part of human nature and the only way to move forward is to slowly re-educate and raise awareness rather than rely solely on legislation.

    I’m done – finally!

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