Government ‘needs to address inequalities faced by Muslim women in the workplace’

The Government must address the inequalities in employment faced by Muslim people in the UK, particularly women, according to a new report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee.

The report highlights the economic disadvantages faced by Muslims, who experience the highest levels of unemployment out of all religious and ethnic groups, at 12.8% compared to 5.4% for the general population.

It says that inequality, discrimination and Islamophobia particularly affect the lives of Muslim women when looking for work and then once in work.

Committee Chair Maria Miller MP said: “We heard evidence that stereotypical views of Muslim women can act as a barrier to work. The data suggests that in communities these patterns are shifting across generations, but we remain concerned that this shift is happening too slowly and that not all Muslim women are being treated equally.”

The report calls on the Government to introduce a role models and mentoring programme aimed at Muslim women to increase equality and help them realise their potential.

The report concludes that the Government’s commitment to tackling disadvantage for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people must be coupled with a coherent cross-Government strategy focused on specific groups, including Muslims, and recommends that a plan should be developed by the end of this year.

Miller adds: “This report underlines the positive contributions of Muslims across the UK, and the urgent need to make equality of opportunity a reality for people of every faith and background.”

The report makes 19 recommendations to tackle disadvantage, arguing that the Government needs to directly address workplace discrimination, provide effective support to work, widen access to university and properly support the aspirations of Muslim women.

With regard to the Government’s counter-extremism programme Prevent, it recommends the Government work to rebuild trust with Muslim communities by adopting an approach to integration which focuses on how it improves the life chances of disadvantaged communities rather than through the lens of counter extremism.

The Committee also found that a lack of comprehensive data is making it difficult to undertake a detailed analysis of problems and recommends that more must be done to improve the quality of data so that employers, universities and the Government can all support Muslim people in achieving their potential.

Other recommendations made by the Committee include that parents and students should be given sufficient information to make fully informed choices about future career and education choices which take into account alternative choices, including apprenticeships; that the Government should raise awareness amongst employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination; that more needs to be done to improve student prospects once at university and after graduation. Universities must introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, in recognition of the employment gaps that they are affected by following graduation; that the Government needs to equip Jobcentre Plus staff with the tools and training to improve their understanding of employment issues faced by Muslim people; that name-blind recruitment should form part of a sustained initiative which profiles those employers which have successfully implemented the policy in order to incentivise others to follow suit; and that employers should pay particular attention to the impact of discrimination and the fear of discrimination in the workplace for Muslim women who wear cultural or religious dress.

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