Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Commission to launch a Construction Leadership Diversity Forum

Commission unveils Action Plan from its Race and Construction Inquiry

The Commission is to launch a Construction Leadership Diversity Forum following the outcomes of its Race and the Construction Industry Inquiry.  It is one of a number of measures developed by the Commission to help tackle racism and the under-representation of groups including ethnic minorities, women and disabled people.

The senior level industry forum will be launched in summer 2010 and aims to provide a clear direction on equality and diversity issues within the construction industry.  It will focus on leadership and governance, procurement, employment and skills, as well as co-ordinating work and monitoring progress. 

The Commission’s Inquiry into Race and the Construction Industry published in July 2009, found that a negative image of the industry and poor recruitment practices contributed to low numbers of ethnic minorities entering the sector. 

Nationally, the construction industry employs three million people - eight per cent of the entire workforce - with only three per cent being from an ethnic minority and around one per cent of the trades’ workforce being women (source: ConstructionSkills). 
In response to the findings of the Inquiry, the Commission has put in place a programme of work aimed at increasing the number of employment and procurement opportunities for under-represented groups and diversifying the supply chain in procurement.

Key recommendations from the action plan include:

  • The launch of the Construction Leadership Diversity Forum
  • Linking with government initiatives such as Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to promote wider procurement opportunities
  • Monitoring data to identify areas of disproportionate impact, as well as improving the understanding of diversity monitoring within the industry. 

Earlier research for the Commission (2008) also found that a high number of ethnic minority businesses needed capacity building in order to bid for contracts on an equal footing with established contractors.  Procurement can be a major lever in driving forward equality but good equality and diversity practice has to be adhered to, to ensure equality outcomes are achieved.

The PQQ Equality Construction Forum was launch by the Commission in 2008, to develop a unified approach to equality in procurement for the Industry.   The development of a new PQQ Industry Standard (PAS91) led by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), is now set for roll out in summer 2010, providing a landmark opportunity to standardise PQQs.

Simon Woolley, lead Commissioner on race for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“The Commission's inquiry brought gender and racial issues into focus - we have been encouraged by the response from the construction industry and hope that this translates into fundamental change. The Construction Leadership Diversity Forum is an important business led initiative that will help the industry find solutions to long standing and persistent problems that have affected far too many. I strongly believe, with the present goodwill on all sides, that together we can make progress.  I will be interested to see the progress made as part of this work programme.”

Niki Luscombe, Chief Executive of Women and Manual Trades welcomed the recommendations and said:

“The proposal to create a Construction Leadership Diversity Forum will finally pull together key players across the sector, in order to address under-representation of ethnic minorities, women and people with disabilities.”

Andy Walder, Director of the National Construction College and Construction Skills’ Equality and Diversity champion, said:

“Increasing equality and diversity within the construction industry is crucial to the future of the industry and I believe that the Construction Leadership Diversity Forum will provide the required direction to initiate a culture change within the sector.”

Julia Tyson, Group HR Director Wates Group Ltd and Chair - UKCG Diversity Steering Group said: 

“The Commission has taken a responsible and enabling approach in bringing the construction sector together to address the issues identified in the inquiry".

Progress of the action plan will continue to be monitored by the Commission via the Construction Leadership Diversity Forum.

For more press information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

See also: Race and Construction Action Plan (PDF) |  Race in the Construction Industry Inquiry 

Notes to Editors


Bux-Ryan, M., Finegold, G., Hutcheson, N., Ressel, C. and Smith, G. (2010 forthcoming) The 2012 Olympics: access to training and employment opportunities. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission
Smallbone, D., Kitching, J., Athayde, R. and Xheneti, M. (2008) Procurement and supplier diversity in the 2012 Olympics. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission

* The ethnic minority population in the five host boroughs is 42 per cent of the overall population, with Asian groups forming 20 per cent of the total population.

  • The construction industry employs 3 million people– 8 per cent of the entire workforce –   therefore the impact on employment is significant.
  • The range of jobs in construction is wide, including consultancy, professional and trade.
  • The construction value chain is 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • 300,000 firms work in construction and many are SMEs.
  • The ethnic minority population in the UK is increasing.
  • 30 per cent of the ethnic minority population are under 16, compared to 19 per cent of the white population.
  • 24 per cent of the working age ethnic minority population are under 25 years old, compared with 19 per cent for the white population.

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals. 

¹ Construction in the UK economy: The Benefits of Investment UK Contractors Group  October 2009

² http://www.emetaskforce.gov.uk/keys.asp Source: Labour Force Survey, second quarter 2009

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