- SURVEY OF EMPLOYERS' EXPERIENCES
In the autumn of 1991, as part of the Review of Employment Equality in Northern Ireland, the Central Community Relations Unit commissioned a survey into the experiences of employers in complying with the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989. The survey was conducted by Market Research Northern Ireland Ltd. who have produced this report on the findings.
In November 1991 Market Research Northern Ireland Ltd (MRNI) won the contract to conduct a survey of employers, designed to obtain information on their experiences in complying with the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 during the early stages of its operation.
As suggested by the Central Community Relations Unit (CCRU), the research was based on a postal survey of a stratified random sample of employers registered with the Fair Employment Commission (FEC).
The sample for the research was drawn from those companies who completed a 1990 monitoring return and from Public Sector organisations.
The sample was drawn by the FEC from their database of employers in accordance with CCRU specifications and provided information in respect of each sampled employer as follows:
In order to achieve an accurate representation of the Province's employers, a proportionate stratified sample using a uniform sampling fraction of one third was drawn to provide a sample of 596 employers. Details of the stratification can be found in Appendix One.
Information was gathered through use of a postal questionnaire
which was sent to the sample of 596 companies and organisations.
In order to generate responses a four stage procedure was undertaken.
Further details of the response rates by industrial sector and
company size are contained in Appendix Two.
Due to some shortfalls in certain employer sizes and industrial sectors a series of weights were imposed upon the data to provide a more meaningful interpretation and ensure accurate overall representation of all sectors. The weighting factors used may be found in Appendix Three.
An outline questionnaire was supplied by CCRU providing a comprehensive framework for the final questionnaire which was issued to employers in the sample.
The questionnaire was formatted, computer coded and printed by
MRNI, in consultation with CCRU, to produce a document which was
easy to follow and complete. A copy of the questionnaire may be
found in Appendix Four.
The remaining chapters of the report present the main findings of the survey. Tables showing the answers given to each question may be found in Appendix Five.
The majority of Northern Ireland companies first began monitoring their workforces in 1990 in compliance with the provisions of the 1989 Act.
Public sector organisations and larger companies had, however, shown a tendency to monitor staff earlier than smaller employers. Almost half of all companies employing over 100 had begun the monitoring process prior to their statutory obligation as opposed to a quarter of smaller companies.
In conducting the monitoring exercise almost all companies and organisations made use of the Fair Employment Code of Practice, with the majority finding it a useful aid to the monitoring process, especially those in larger organisations and the public sector. In general terms a quarter of companies found the code of practice ' very useful' whilst a further two thirds found it 'quite useful'.
Many companies looked no further than the Code of Practice for assistance, with only 41% actually making contact with the FEC for advice or information. The public sector displayed a much higher tendency to do so, being twice as likely to have made contact as the private sector.
Those who contacted the FEC about the monitoring process found them to be helpful, especially those in larger companies where over half found them 'very helpful'.
Contact with the FEC during 1990 and 1991 over matters other than registration and monitoring had been experienced by just under a quarter of all companies. The main reasons for such contact were related to the investigation of complaints or to ask for procedural guidelines on Fair Employment Practice. Once again the FEC performance in dealing with such employer contact was highly regarded with 8 out of every 10 companies expressing satisfaction.
Among respondents, just over half of all private sector companies who were eligible for assistance under the Fair Employment Support Scheme actually applied for it, with the greatest tendency to do so displayed by companies with over 100 employees. Those who did receive assistance found it to be very useful especially in terms of monitoring and personnel procedures. In addition, small companies, (i.e. those with less than 50 employees), found the information systems component of use, whilst some larger companies were appreciative of training in the use of tests.
For almost three quarters of all companies, the 1990 monitoring exercise represented an integral part of an overall equal opportunities policy within the company. This finding was slightly more common in the public sector and was unaffected by company size.
To the majority of companies, however, monitoring equal opportunity in the workplace relates only to religion and sex with less than one third including other areas such as marital status or disability in their monitoring process.
In order to undertake the 1990 monitoring exercise and, more generally, comply with the new Fair Employment legislation, less than one in ten companies employed additional staff with the public sector and large companies most likely to take on additional people.
However, four in ten companies incurred additional costs in complying with the monitoring exercise with public sector and large companies again having the greatest frequency of additional expenditure.
The purpose of these additional costs was varied, although staff/management time and additional stationery were the most often quoted expenses.
For the public sector and large companies, computerisation was a key expenditure item whereas the expenses incurred by smaller companies were more attributable to the purchase of general office equipment.
Of reported items of additional expenditure most were below £1,000. The public sector and large companies were more likely to have invested larger amounts of capital in the monitoring procedure than other employers.
Few companies used more than two or three people in conducting the monitoring exercise with 40% using only one staff member.
In terms of company structure few private sector companies made any organisational changes in order to carry out the exercise, unlike the public sector where 27% of organisations made structural changes to facilitate the procedure.
Administration of the exercise was undertaken manually in the majority of organisations. However, this was not the case in the public sector where almost two thirds undertook computerised analysis of staff.
Very few companies regarded monitoring as a low priority exercise. As expected the public sector had a relatively high regard for monitoring with three quarters regarding it as being of high priority. In terms of company size, the priority of the exercise was directly proportional to the size of the company - the larger the company the higher the priority, the smaller the company the lower the priority.
Just over half of all companies took steps to encourage staff co-operation in the monitoring process. The likelihood of taking such steps increased in proportion to the size of the employer and was higher in the public than the private sector.
The main steps taken by companies to encourage co-operation were letters to employees and staff meetings.
Consultation took place with trade union representatives in just under half of those companies with organised unions. Consultation was particularly high in the public sector with almost three quarters of all public sector bodies consulting with their trade union representatives prior to undertaking the monitoring exercise.
Of those companies who have organised trade unions, the reported reaction of the union to the legislation was either positive or unremarkable. Very few were actually negative or resistant to the legislation, with outright support noticeably higher in the public sector and larger companies.
A few companies felt that response to the monitoring exercise had been low in certain occupational groups - especially in the public sector and larger companies where manual workers were generally felt to be the least responsive.
The principal method of monitoring most favoured was the direct question, especially in the private sector where it was used by over three quarters of all companies. The public sector, by contrast, used the direct question and first schools methods in almost equal proportions.
Difficulties in the monitoring procedure were relatively prevalent with over two thirds finding some difficulty in counting applicants - though the degree of reported difficulty in many cases was only slight.
The use of the residuary method and the coding of employees into SOC groups had similar degrees of difficulty for employers.
Least difficulty was encountered with counting appointees whilst coding schools caused problems for just under half.
Another potential area of difficulty was the requirement of having
to disclose to employees, in writing, the determination of their
community background. However, this only caused difficulties in
a small number of cases.
The 1989 Fair Employment legislation has had an impact upon the employment practices of a sizable proportion of companies but by no means a majority.
In overall terms just over a quarter felt the exercise had been useful as opposed to a third who felt it had not, leaving a sizable proportion with no strong opinion either way.
Personnel practices, however, were felt to have improved in 40% of companies as a result of the legislation, with staff recruitment procedures also changed to a similar degree, especially among larger companies.
The main change apparent in staff recruitment appears to be the advertising of posts, especially in the private sector. Interviewing methods, updated filing, recruitment methods, new documentation and a move away from word of mouth recruitment were all areas which were changed to some degree in a proportion of companies.
Just under a third of companies had also introduced affirmative action measures with employers in the private sector much more active in this area than their public sector counterparts. Of those who had introduced affirmative action measures, just under half had introduced goals and timetables relating to these measures.
Section 31 of the 1989 Fair Employment Act Review requires employers to undertake a review of employment composition and practices at least once very three years.
Just under half of all companies had already begun their review and many felt they required some help in undertaking it. The need for assistance was greatest in relation to the content and structure of the review and least for goals and timetables. In general, around two thirds of all companies felt they required some assistance with most aspects of the review. In the majority of cases the assistance needed was described as ' a little'.
Only in setting goals and timetables did public sector 'confidence' in handling the various components of the review approach that of the private sector with two thirds still requiring some assistance.
Almost three quarters of those who felt that they needed assistance with the review stated that they would seek help from the FEC. The private sector would be more likely than the public sector to seek help from private consultants while the converse would be true as regards seeking help from their own staff.
The stratification of the sample took account of:
RESPONSES BY INDUSTRIAL SECTOR AND COMPANY SIZE
WEIGHTS APPLIED TO RESPONDENTS
SECTION A - COMPANY DETAILS
IF USEFUL OR QUITE USEFUL CONTINUE OTHERWISE GO TO Q. 15
The next six questions relate to the degree of difficulty you found with certain aspects of the monitoring return.
Not all questions will apply to your company or organisation:
In such cases please circle the 'does not apply' response and answer the other questions which do apply to you.
Please indicate for each relevant question the degree of difficulty
you encountered with this aspect of the procedure:
That concludes the survey. Thank you very much for your help and co-operation.