‘Employers still uncomfortable talking about race’

A new survey from BITC finds some progress on reporting the ethnicity pay gap and on senior leadership promoting inclusion, but very little movement on employee perceptions about their employer being comfortable about talking about race at work.



The UK is still uncomfortable talking about race with only four in 10 employees saying that their employers are comfortable discussing race in the workplace, an increase of only 3% since 2018, according to a survey by Business in the Community [BITC].

The 2021 Race at Work survey of of over 24,600 employees also found that Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse employees are twice as likely as White employees to have experienced or witnessed racist harassment from managers, customers, clients and colleagues.

Other findings from the survey include:

– An increase of 8% of employers capturing ethnicity pay gap data, increasing from 11% in 2018 to 19% in 2021.
– Six in 10 White employees say that they feel they have an equal opportunity in the workplace, compared to five in 10 Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse employees.
– There has been a 11% shift in the number of senior leaders acting as executive sponsors at the top table promoting equality, equity, fairness and inclusion, an increase from 33% in 2018 to 44% in 2021.
– After the first Race at Work survey in 2015, BITC launched the Race at Work Charter. The Charter has more than 780 signatories, representing 5.8 million employees across the UK. By signing the charter, organisations have committed to improving equality of opportunity in the workplace.

As part of the survey results, BITC is calling on the Government to protect employees from being subject to racist harassment by introducing provisions in the upcoming Employment Bill.

Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community said: “The results of the Race at Work survey are encouraging, the data is moving in the right direction but there’s still a lot of work to do. Organisations need to make talking about race and equality in the workplace something of the norm, until there is a shift and safe space to have these conversations, change will be a long time coming. The tragic murder of George Floyd has brought about the opportunity to have important and long-overdue conversations, and we must keep the momentum going.

“Business in the Community has been calling for companies to be legally required to publish their ethnicity pay gap data to give transparency to employees and job seekers, and it’s great to see an 8% increase in the number of companies reporting this data. While ethnicity pay gap reporting won’t solve everything, it will help focus on where action is needed most.”

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