Construction employers are to be scrutinised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for evidence of ‘indirect discrimination’ that disadvantages black and Asian workers. If evidence is found, the EHRC could launch an official investigation into the company’s practices.

The move is part of the Commission’s on-going monitoring of the industry, following the publication in July of its report on racial discrimination in construction.

Rhodri McDonald, a senior lawyer at the EHRC, said that it is ‘looking at how we gather intelligence [on employers] and monitor compliance with the law’ and is encouraging individuals who feel they have suffered discrimination to come forward.

He explained: ‘There’s what you could call a “discrimination dividend”. In other industries, people are in longer-term careers and have clearer employment status, so employers know there’s a reputational risk if someone takes them to tribunal for discrimination. But if construction companies feel they can discriminate without penalty, then they’re avoiding the costs they would suffer… if people were taking them to tribunals.’

The EHRC is also planning a series of round-table meetings with the industry to find ways of taking the report’s recommendations forward.

Meanwhile, gay rights group Stonewall is talking to two or three construction employers about becoming ‘diversity champions’ that would set a standard for lesbian and gay-friendly workplaces for other firms to follow.

‘People perform better at work when they can be themselves, they’re more productive,’ said associate Laura Swiszczowski. ‘We’d encourage employers to have clear polices on bullying and harassment, so that people know who they can report it to, to work on how they communicate with staff, and to set up a lesbian and gay employee network.’