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Workforce monitoring reform

What you need to know

Recommendation - extending workforce monitoring requirements

We recommend an extension of the monitoring requirements under the fair employment legislation to cover the additional grounds of nationality and ethnic origin. This will mean that registered employers, in addition to monitoring the community background and sex of their employees and applicants, will be required to collect monitoring information as regards nationality and ethnic origin.


The proposal paper

A proposal paper outlining in detail the rationale for this proposal, the ways in which the additional monitoring information will benefit employers and the likely impact the proposal will have on employers has already been submitted to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM)  for consideration. It is our view that urgent consideration needs to be given to this matter is supported by independent research (pdf, 2009) on the issues and challenges facing government, employers and other in Northern Ireland as a result of increasing inward migration.

Reasons for change

The primary reason for the proposed changes is to ensure the continuing usefulness of the fair employment monitoring Regulations. In particular, it will help employers identify which employees and applicants are migrant workers and new residents, and enable employers make a more accurate and meaningful assessment of fair participation in employment in their organisation.

The fair employment monitoring and affirmative action provisions are based on the premise that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are of local origin and may be determined as either members of the Protestant or Roman Catholic communities.

However, there has been a significant increase of migrant labour and new residents in Northern Ireland. For example, statistics show that the estimated net international migration into Northern Ireland has increased from 416 in 2003/04 to 9,023 in 2005/06. (, July 2007). It should be noted that these figures include, but are not exclusively made up of, the number of migrant workers per se. Current estimates however allow for an identification of the overall trends.

This increase in net migration necessitates a review of the applicability of the current fair employment provisions. This is most easily understood by the fact that many migrants from the States recently accessed into the European Union (EU) appear in employers’ monitoring returns as Roman Catholic. For example, the proportion of Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) approvals for Polish nationals in June’07 made up to 62% of all approvals in Northern Ireland (WRS monitoring data, 2007).

This has made it more difficult for employers in terms of making comparisons with local labour availability information, and therefore reaching conclusions on fair participation.


Improvements to the collection of monitoring data

The collection of monitoring data on these grounds will also:

  • enable a more accurate assessment of overall changes in the employment and applicant profile in Northern Ireland, in terms of community background
  • assist employers in assessing the impact of their employment policies and procedures on particular ethnic groups in the workplace, and in identifying discriminatory employment practices which impact directly or indirectly on these groups
  • enhance the ability of public authorities to perform their duties under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 effectively and efficiently
  • provide consistency with benchmark datasets for comparison purposes
  • provide a valuable and extensive source of data for a range of organisations and inform high level indicators for monitoring priority outcomes of Government strategies.

Other changes proposed

There are, in addition, other changes required in order to ensuring the continuing effectiveness of the fair  employment monitoring regulations. For example, the Commission recommends that employers are required to provide monitoring data on applicants and appointees in relation to each recruitment competition, and not, as is currently the case, overall figures for each year.

The present monitoring Regulations do not enable employers to accurately assess the success rate by community background in recruitment. Appointments may relate to applications recorded in a previous year and applications may relate to appointments yet to be made and not recorded in an employer’s monitoring return to the Commission.

In addition to assisting employers, the recommended changes will also enable a more accurate assessment of overall changes in the appointee and applicant profile in Northern Ireland in terms of community background.
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