chapter  9
12 Pages

Equal opportunities and productive efficiency in the workplace: fairness, employee participation and the firm: Virginie Perotin and Andrew Robinson


Anti-discrimination policies may increase firm efficiency in a number of ways. Labour may be more efficiently allocated because equal opportunities measures widen the pool of applicants from which selection is effectively made for any given post, thereby improving the allocation of human resources at the point of hiring and promotion.As a consequence, equal opportunities measures may better match workers and jobs, while encouraging the formulation of more ‘objective’ employment criteria and the use of more systematic search procedures when selecting appropriate candidates for posts. Other reasons for supposing that effective antidiscrimination measures will increase the productive efficiency of an organisation might include (e.g.) better incentives for personal development and the accumulation of skills and know-how by members of discriminated groups as their career prospects improve: if this also occurs in a context of increased loyalty and longer term relationships with the firm, then there may be mutual advantages for both employer and employee from enhanced investments in firm-specific skills. The adverse effects of discriminatory environments on the health, morale and dignity of employees have been well documented; where a discriminatory environment encourages sexual or racial harassment, individual and organisational performance may also suffer as a consequence of individual stress, loss of confidence, absenteeism or resignation, as well as a lack of workplace co-operation. On the other hand, effective planning for and implementation of equal opportunities at work can alleviate these specific adverse effects of discrimination, while improving the performance of discriminated groups by affording access to more rewarding job assignments, providing opportunities to utilise private knowledge and personal creativity, and inculcating a sense of fairness. Motivation for non-discriminated groups might also increase if they have to compete for advancement on a more level playing field, although, as observed below, this is one possibility only.3 The problems associated with discrimination may therefore impact on many levels of organisational performance.