The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

Is Cultural Awareness a Skill?

Is Cultural Awareness a Skill?

A common misconception held by many is that cultural awareness is a skill you either have or you don't have, or, at the very least, is a skill that can be learned through training.

Well, this simply is not true.

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Ramadan 2018 - Why your Muslim colleagues are fasting and how you can support them

Ramadan 2018 - Why your Muslim colleagues are fasting and how you can support them

For those of us working in multicultural environments, it’s fair to say that our colleagues may ocassionally observe traditions which we aren’t familiar with. Ramadan is one such occasion.

In the same way that non Muslims may avoid asking questions for fear of intrusion, Muslims may equally avoid going into too much detail about Ramadan for fear of their colleagues not being interested.

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Dubai First Gov Games - a Great Lesson in Driving Cultural Diversity

Dubai First Gov Games - a Great Lesson in Driving Cultural Diversity

With over 7 million of its 9 million population classed as non-Emirati, the UAE has become an incredible melting point of cultures and nationalities.

Owing to Dubai’s relatively relaxed attitude and job opportunities, the majority of these expats reside in Dubai itself. Of these expats, South East Asians make up the largest proportion with approximately 8% of Westerners making up the smaller portion.

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Pearson Education Slapped for Sloppy Approach to Cultural Awareness

Pearson Education Slapped for Sloppy Approach to Cultural Awareness

Have you read about the backlash Pearson Education received regarding a section about cultural awareness in a recent nursing textbook?

Initially it started with a Facebook post outlining some crude cultural stereotypes, but the complaints soon grew large enough and loud enough for Pearson Education to take note.

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Understanding Diversity is Key to Doing Better Business in Brazil

Understanding Diversity is Key to Doing Better Business in Brazil

Doing Business in Brazil?  
A ‘One Size fits All’ approach will sink your ship in Brazil.  Here’s why….

With the largest economy in Latin America and the seventh largest economy in the world, there is every reason why companies and investors have their eye closely set on Brazil.

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Globalization is Not Killing Our Cultures Finds New Research

Globalization is Not Killing Our Cultures Finds New Research

For some, globalization is dangerous for cultural diversity. 

The fear of cultural dilution and being imposed upon by a foreign, sometimes corporate, culture drives many people to deduce that the global economy is doing us more harm than good.

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150+ CEOs Commit to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

150+ CEOs Commit to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ will "Improve Corporate Performance, Drive Growth, and Enhance Employee Engagement" says founding companies

In a sign of the growing importance of diversity issues within the workplace, a group of more than 150 CEOs from some of the world’s leading companies have put their names againt CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ -  the largest ever CEO-driven commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

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What is Driving Diversity to Become a CEO-level Strategic Concern?

What is Driving Diversity to Become a CEO-level Strategic Concern?

Research from Deloitte finds that diversity and inclusion in the workplace are now leadership-level issues, central to future growth and security.

Findings from the firm's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report suggest that diversity has moved away from a predominantly HR-focused, "check box ticking" initiative to one of key strategic importance at CEO-level.

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How Diversity and Social Cohesion are Being Privatized by Politicians

How Diversity and Social Cohesion are Being Privatized by Politicians

With the final nails being beaten into the coffin of multiculturalism and politicians seemingly unable to grapple with its complexities, will we see the private sector taking ownership?

I think most people would agree that 2016 was full-on in terms of major events that are shaping our world. Some shook the world and will continue to do so in the coming years.   

Although there is much to be concerned about in the future, whether it’s the environment or the economy, one area that particularly worries me is the rise in xenophobia, the subtle racism that has bled into our media outlets and politics and the backlash against multiculturalism.

The voices grow louder and more confident daily…begging the question, who is doing what to counter this? Some elements of the media seem unfettered in the blatant divisiveness.

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What is Your Favourite Quote Defining Culture?

What is Your Favourite Quote Defining Culture?

How would you describe or define culture?

What imagery would you use? How could you help someone understand the basic mechanics of culture and the impact this has on the world?

Not an easy one!

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Diversity Training Imposed on Legal Clerks

Diversity Training Imposed on Legal Clerks


It seems that legal clerks are going to be required to undergo diversity training if they want to continue working successfully within the legal field.
Legal chambers are now seeking to protect themselves against the lack of cultural knowledge that their staff may have by making sure that diversity training is undertaken. The move comes after the 4 Square case where discrimination charges were laid at 4 Square’s door.
The regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), is currently drawing up set of guidelines that will help to steer the legal profession through the minefield that is culture and diversity training. It is hoped that these guidelines will be approved and will be included in the code of conduct by the end of next year.
Legal companies are starting to realise the importance of cultural training and courses are filling up within hours of being made available to firms.
Legal companies have responded to the move saying that they welcome the new regulations that will require staff to be fully made up to date on cultural and diversity issues that are facing the UK at the moment.
More and more clients also expect their lawyers to know all about the dangers of discrimination so in order to give the clients what they need the firms need to make sure that all of the staff are brought up to speed.
4 Square barrister Aisha Bijlani has highlighted this issue after winning a claim against 4Square in which she accused the firm of racial and disability prejudice.
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Diversity Matters

Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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Diversity Matters

Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters

London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters



In areas such as London where there is large culturally diversity, it seems that hospitals are running up larger than average bills because they are having to employ interpreters so that patients who do not speak the language can understand the medical staff who are treating them.
Recent numbers indicate that around seven hospital trusts in London have run up large bills employing interpreters trying to tackle language barriers. It has sparked fresh outcry across London and the rest of the UK that people who come to England to live need to be able to speak the language.
The London NHS Trust said that its biggest bill was for £2.2million pounds to make sure that patients who did not speak the language had access to interpreters. The figures highlight the problem of immigration and language barriers. Nick de Bois the MP who published the findings said that it was a clear example of the cost to the country that people who do not speak the language can bring.
The survey was based on information from The University College London Hospital Trust which spent £1.6million, Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital paid £1.3million and Great Ormond Street Hospital and Homerton University Hospital  had to pay approximately £1.2million each.
At a time when the country is cutting back on spending it seems an unnecessary expense for London hospitals to be spending their budget on interpreters. However it is also true that hospitals still need to provide proper patient care and when patients are unable to speak the language it seems that the hospitals have no choice but to employ interpreters.
Communication is important when it comes to good hospital care but this is not always easy or cheap as these London hospitals have proved by having to hire interpreters.
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2011 Census Translation Costs

2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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2011 Census Translation Costs

2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?

Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?



Life in Britain is becoming more multi-cultural. We hear this view from the media, the government and experts all the time. But what does this ‘culture’ for which we are diversifying actually mean?

Collins English dictionary outlines culture as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action”. Yet when we here about culture, a specific way of life or belief system, why do we nearly always focus on the ‘other’ or the ‘different’. It seems that to be a person of ‘culture’ (beyond the liberal arts definition) you have to belong to a group that has a strongly defined ‘alternative’ lifestyle.

Does this twisting of culture, to mean someone from a strongly valued minority, suggest that the ‘cultured’ among us will be far more understanding towards cultures beyond their own than the rest of us?

Lets take the example of someone having a clearly defined religion. This person of ‘Culture’ attends religious ceremonies, prays in a regular manner, has strong beliefs on morality and family, and is in the minority in our Western increasingly secular society. Will this person be more likely to travel to far-flung regions and investigate cultures such as the Massai tribesman or Tibetan Buddhist monks, than someone with no clearly defined religious, social or political beliefs?

If you are a person with very rigid beliefs and practices surrounding religion or politics or society or ethics then you are deemed ‘of culture’. Therefore is Western Society right in assuming you would be more understanding towards ‘remote cultures’ than say the average ‘Londoner’. You understand what it is like to believe in something very strongly, to have a defined lifestyle that stems from your values of the world. Strong values to strong values, yes?

Another example, this time of the ‘Londoner’. A man, thirty-five, works as an assistant manager in the city, agnostic, drinks in moderation, votes for his favourite candidate regardless of party, has an on-off partner. Our environment tells us that this person is the ‘neutral’, a person without strong religious, social or political beliefs; he cannot be ‘of culture’. Therefore does that mean that he sees our first person as an enigma, a strange mix of inherited ideas, beliefs and values, totally impregnable to him? Surely if he went to the Massai he would boggle at them, he would be confused and disconcerted?

No. It is a myth that our second man has no culture when the truth is he is as much a man of ‘culture’ as our first religious follower. The ‘Neutral’ is not neutral at all. We have just heard a series of inherited views throughout his description, a barrage of cultural information. We know he drinks moderately (believing in a healthy body), he votes politically by candidate (he invests trust in an individual rather than a more holistically-themed party), he has an on-off partner and he is thirty-five (he believes in relationships but doesn’t believe marriage/civil partnership should be rushed). In just three vaguely descriptive statements we have learnt about the intellectual, social and moral views of the Londoner. Just as the ‘cultured’ believes in the family, looks after his soul through prayer and believes in the justice of a God/Gods, the Londoner has a whole stream of cultural beliefs.

What happens then when we introduce our two men to ‘remote cultures’?
The ‘Cultured’ might admire the dedication of the Tibetan monks; or he might protest at their rejection of a God. The ‘Londoner’ might see similarities between the structural order of the Massai tribe and his own CEO-lead company (from Laibon to children); or he might be baffled by their pastoral way of life when he is so used to technological dependency.

We all have our own culture; we all have our own beliefs that develop over our lives. Culture is not exclusive and neither should be understanding.
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Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?

Do you have to be ‘cultured’ to understand other cultures?



Life in Britain is becoming more multi-cultural. We hear this view from the media, the government and experts all the time. But what does this ‘culture’ for which we are diversifying actually mean?

Collins English dictionary outlines culture as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action”. Yet when we here about culture, a specific way of life or belief system, why do we nearly always focus on the ‘other’ or the ‘different’. It seems that to be a person of ‘culture’ (beyond the liberal arts definition) you have to belong to a group that has a strongly defined ‘alternative’ lifestyle.

Does this twisting of culture, to mean someone from a strongly valued minority, suggest that the ‘cultured’ among us will be far more understanding towards cultures beyond their own than the rest of us?

Lets take the example of someone having a clearly defined religion. This person of ‘Culture’ attends religious ceremonies, prays in a regular manner, has strong beliefs on morality and family, and is in the minority in our Western increasingly secular society. Will this person be more likely to travel to far-flung regions and investigate cultures such as the Massai tribesman or Tibetan Buddhist monks, than someone with no clearly defined religious, social or political beliefs?

If you are a person with very rigid beliefs and practices surrounding religion or politics or society or ethics then you are deemed ‘of culture’. Therefore is Western Society right in assuming you would be more understanding towards ‘remote cultures’ than say the average ‘Londoner’. You understand what it is like to believe in something very strongly, to have a defined lifestyle that stems from your values of the world. Strong values to strong values, yes?

Another example, this time of the ‘Londoner’. A man, thirty-five, works as an assistant manager in the city, agnostic, drinks in moderation, votes for his favourite candidate regardless of party, has an on-off partner. Our environment tells us that this person is the ‘neutral’, a person without strong religious, social or political beliefs; he cannot be ‘of culture’. Therefore does that mean that he sees our first person as an enigma, a strange mix of inherited ideas, beliefs and values, totally impregnable to him? Surely if he went to the Massai he would boggle at them, he would be confused and disconcerted?

No. It is a myth that our second man has no culture when the truth is he is as much a man of ‘culture’ as our first religious follower. The ‘Neutral’ is not neutral at all. We have just heard a series of inherited views throughout his description, a barrage of cultural information. We know he drinks moderately (believing in a healthy body), he votes politically by candidate (he invests trust in an individual rather than a more holistically-themed party), he has an on-off partner and he is thirty-five (he believes in relationships but doesn’t believe marriage/civil partnership should be rushed). In just three vaguely descriptive statements we have learnt about the intellectual, social and moral views of the Londoner. Just as the ‘cultured’ believes in the family, looks after his soul through prayer and believes in the justice of a God/Gods, the Londoner has a whole stream of cultural beliefs.

What happens then when we introduce our two men to ‘remote cultures’?
The ‘Cultured’ might admire the dedication of the Tibetan monks; or he might protest at their rejection of a God. The ‘Londoner’ might see similarities between the structural order of the Massai tribe and his own CEO-lead company (from Laibon to children); or he might be baffled by their pastoral way of life when he is so used to technological dependency.

We all have our own culture; we all have our own beliefs that develop over our lives. Culture is not exclusive and neither should be understanding.
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Intercultural training materials for migrant workers

Intercultural training materials for migrant workers



On a construction site near the future Olympic village in east London, more than half of the workforce is Asian, about a third Central and Eastern European (including a large contingent of Bulgarians) and about 10% British.

In the canteen Sikhs sit with Sikhs, Lithuanians with Lithuanians and Brits with Brits. Communication is severely limited and it's not just language. Improving communication between communities at work is a major issue. Countries across the EU are experiencing the challenge of integrating migrant workers into their workplaces.

Now an EU iniative, the European Intercultural Workplace (EIW), addresses this challenge. Started by Dublin City University, the three-year project has a budget of $1.48m. It is one of the largest in the Leonardo da Vinci scheme, the EU mechanism for funding vocational education initiatives, and is part of the EU's current Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

The EIW involves vocational training centres and universities in 10 countries: Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Britain. Each partner has produced a national situation report, drawing together migrant workers' views on integration plus details of how employers and governments respond. There are also case studies looking at local sectors such as construction, retail and education.

A series of booklets explore intercultural issues on a transnational level with analysis of smaller-sized businesses, healthcare and education workplaces across Europe. A fourth booklet, Overview of Legislation, explains the legal situation in different countries. These reports are all available from the project website.

The data collected is impressive, but what will be of practical benefit to those working in intercultural communication – often starved of suitable teaching resources – are the EIW project's workplace educational training materials. These are available as a DVD/print package called Europe at Work.

The materials have been written and produced by the UK project team, led by Professor Emeritus Jack Lonergan of the University of Westminster. They have followed a critical incident methodology which presents scenarios on DVD and follow-up materials that promote discussion of possible solutions rather than providing a single answer.

"The scenarios have been scripted to focus on one specific issue which allows easy transfer to many similar situations. They have been filmed nowhere but apply anywhere," says Professor Lonergan.

One unit is called Appearance and reflects the issue of Muslim women wearing the veil at work. Seema, a Muslim accounts clerk, is selected for promotion by her human resources manager, Miss Tate. However, Miss Tate advises Seema that wearing a headscarf, or hijab, will not be appropriate in her more senior role. The scene plays out with Seema and Miss Tate's discussion.

Fourteen units, with accompanying print materials, deal with many areas of miscommunication at work between migrant and host-country workers. Most deal with the relations between bosses and staff concerning gender, religion, authority, time, race, qualifications and relationships.

Others deal with language issues such as failure to communicate, or being at a disadvantage because of language difficulties. One scene deals with body language. A young man is from a culture where he does not look elders in the eye out of respect for authority; he is suspected of dishonesty by a policeman because of his body language – his "shifty" manner.

The DVD scenarios make no recommendations and indeed come to no conclusions. It is for the work group to identify the issues, discuss possible solutions and come to an agreement.

The training manual supports the DVD scenario by helping viewers identify and understand the issues at stake and by inviting them to form their own opinions and discuss them with colleagues. An important part of each unit is the "What if... ?" scenes where students are taken through a series of situations and asked how they would deal with them. The accompanying best practice section suggests possible solutions that might be employed to resolve each situation.

Britain has a long history of migrants in the workplace, and therefore has experiences and expertise to share, but the EIW materials seek a wider perspective. Solutions found in Britain are not necessarily exportable and some issues may be dealt with more successfully elsewhere.

There is another spin off. Because of the immediacy of the issues, the naturalistic language and the subtitles in eight languages, the materials can also be used in language schools and colleges wanting workplace-based materials.

Original article from The Guardian
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EHRC accused of requesting ethnic minority staff to join BNP

EHRC accused of requesting ethnic minority staff to join BNP


The equality watchdog is conducting an internal investigation into allegations that a director asked minority employees to join the British National Party (BNP), testing the party's constitution ahead of a legal case.

A source says the senior manager asked staff in a teleconference to identify employees at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) from a black and ethnic minority background who could be asked to join the far-right BNP.

The EHRC allegedly wanted to gather evidence that the BNP refused minority applicants to the party, in the build up to its legal case against the party's rules.

Read more > EHRC
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