This paper explores the question of whether there is an ethical business case for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) employing a more diverse workforce with Regan and Stanley (2003: p.v) arguing that employers should look beyond their legal obligations in respect of disadvantaged groups. What attitudes do SME employers have to such proposals, what are their current practices and how can they be supported to meet skills shortages through employing a more diverse workforce? The primary data was derived from focus group sessions with local SMEs and interviews with the procurement managers of large employers in Southampton. Examples of good practice in the employment policies of SMEs and business benefits are discussed in relation to the literature on inclusion strategies for disadvantaged groups. The feasibility of using supply chains to encourage employment diversity in SMEs is evaluated. In concluding this paper reflects on how Southampton?s labour market intelligence capability and the capacity of local organisations to deliver effective support services to businesses and to individuals could be built. Finally, the paper initiates discussion on the feasibility of addressing low economic activity and participation rates among disadvantaged individuals and communities.
|Published - 1 Jan 2009