Largest ever survey published on race equality in the UK workplace

  • More than 24,000 survey respondents
  • Ethnic minorities have greater career ambition than white colleagues
  • Racial harassment and bullying in the workplace appears to be on the rise
  • Call for government to add ‘race’ to the UK Corporate Governance Code’s definition of diversity

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people have greater ambition than their white colleagues, enjoy their work more, and some ethnic groups are more likely to be included in succession planning. However, 30% of employees in the UK that have witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the workplace have done so in the last year alone, an increase from previous years, and only 55% of BAME employees feel they are a valued member of their team, compared to 71% of white employees.

These are some of the findings from a Race at Work report released today by the charity Business in the Community. The Race at Work report, undertaken with research partner YouGov, heard from 24,457 people in employment across the UK, making it the largest survey of race at work ever undertaken in the UK.

Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community said: “It is clear that ethnic minorities’ experiences of work are still not equal to their white peers. Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of the workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action. As a result, we are making specific recommendations to both government and employers to ensure that the voices of 24,457 people are heard.”

The report includes four main calls to action for government:

  1. Commit to ensuring that during 2016 the UK Corporate Governance Code’s definition of diversity for listed companies includes ‘and race’ – it is currently defined as “diversity, including gender”.
  2. Use its procurement spending power to ensure that businesses that tender for public contracts can demonstrate a commitment to race diversity.
  3. Draw up a policy framework on race to promote good practice and close the persistent unemployment gap
  4. Consider commissioning a review into race equality in the workplace with focus on promotions at senior management levels, similar to Lord Davies of Abersoch’s review of women on boards.

Participants took the Race at Work survey via a YouGov panel survey (6,076 respondents) and a public open survey (18,381 respondents) between 28 July 2015 and 17 September 2015. Respondents were aged 16 and over, currently in employment in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report is sponsored by BT, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, KPMG, Nationwide and Sainsbury’s.

The report also finds that:

  • UK workplaces are less comfortable talking about race than they are age and gender: 37% think colleagues are comfortable talking about race, compared with 44% comfortable talking about age and 42% gender.
  • 64% of BAME and 41% of white employees said they want to progress. Ambition is particularly high for employees from a Black background (72%), and for Asian (63%) and mixed race (61%) groups.
  • 65% of BAME and 61% of white employees enjoy working for their organisation.
  • Different ethnic groups have different experiences of work – from satisfaction in career progression to date, access to training, and exposure to career role models.
  • BAME groups are most interested in taking part in fast track programmes – 40% of BAME employees, compared to 18% of white employees – yet participation rates do not represent all ethnic minority groups.
  • Succession planning lists for senior roles are more likely to include BAME employees, yet some ethnic groups are least likely to be identified in this way - including Black Caribbean and Chinese employees.
  • BAME employees are more likely to have a mentor (28%) or sponsor (15%) in the workplace than white employees (12% and 6%, respectively).

The report calls for UK workplaces to start taking action today to ensure that the workplaces of tomorrow and beyond are fully utilising the diverse talent in our workforces.  Recommendations for employers include:

  • Promote training and awareness of racial bias in the workplace.
  • Minimum requirement for all people managers should have mandatory diversity training.
  • Managers at every level to have objectives around ensuring diversity and inclusion in their teams, including progressing diverse talent.
  • Senior leaders to recognise that racial harassment and bullying exists and take action to erase it from the workplace.
  • Employers should review their succession planning lists to ensure the inclusion of diverse talent from all ethnic groups.

 Access the full Race at Work report online>>


BT, Tony Chanmugam, Group Finance Director and board sponsor for race equality: “As one of the UK’s largest employers, and one that prides itself on equality we’re hugely supportive of this survey and hope people look at the clear insight in race at work. We serve customers in communities and employ people all across the UK and it is important that our workforce reflects the societies in which we operate. There is still a lot of work to do to show that ethnic minorities’ experiences of work are still not equal to their peers and this survey can help close the gap if action is taken and support is available.

“A diverse workforce fosters greater innovation and helps us improve our knowledge and serves our customers at the highest level. The knowledge gained from this survey will help us further shape our workforce and help us continue to attract, train and retain the best talent.” 

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Daryl Scales, Vice President of Finance for Europe: “As a company that’s committed to diversity, we are very proud to support the Race at Work 2015 report. It’s an incredibly important and timely study as it provides employers with insight into different races’ views regarding the workplace and equality of opportunity. The findings should give every employer something to consider and hopefully will lead to an increase in the number of inclusive workplaces throughout the UK. Quite apart from being the right thing to do, diverse organisations tend to perform better than their peers, so this is also an opportunity for companies to improve their overall performance metrics.”

KPMG, Richard Iferenta, Tax Partner: “Race at Work reveals the great opportunities for employers to capitalise on the appetite for bigger and bolder roles expressed by BAME employees. At KPMG we recognise that by unlocking the leadership potential of diverse talent, we bring innovation to our clients, mobility to our communities and value to the UK economy. All employers share the responsibility to make opportunity the norm for future generations – KPMG celebrates every organisation engaged in improving the landscape for BAME colleagues today.”

Nationwide, Graeme Hughes, Group director: “This is an incredibly important report and one that raises some major issues which employers must address. More than 24,000 people took the time to air their views and help us understand how race impacts on workplaces across the UK – we owe it to them and any employee who faces barriers to career progression solely because of race inequality, to analyse the wealth of information within this research and take action.

“There are some very interesting findings in this report – from the fact that employees from ethnic minority groups tend to be more ambitious than their white colleagues to the issue that people do not feel comfortable talking about race in the workplace. It really lifts the lid on the current state of race at work and we, as employers, need to reflect on the findings and recommendations and have a good look at our workplaces.”

Sainsbury’s, Angie Risley, Group HR Director: “We are very pleased to have been asked to support this extensive and valuable survey. The results gives us and every UK employer a lot to think about.  When barriers to equality are broken down, both employees and companies benefit.”


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Interviews with Sandra Kerr OBE and senior business leaders from BT, KPMG, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Nationwide or Sainsbury’s are available upon request. Quotes from our sponsors are above. For more information please contact:

Rebecca Gregory, Business in the Community T: 020 7566 6650 E:

Ochuko Adekoya, Business in the Community T: 020 7566 8758 / 07921 941 536 E:

Laura Cooney, Business in the Community T: 020 7566 8653 E:

Methodology: The Race at Work project was undertaken to provide greater understanding of the issues around under-representation of ethnic minorities in the workplace and at senior levels. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 24,457 UK employees with 18,381 responding through an open link to the survey and 6,076 through the YouGov Plc UK panel of 450,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. The survey was carried out online. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th July and 17th September 2015.

The findings presented here are based on the YouGov panel data which has been weighted to be representative of UK employees by gender, ethnicity, size and sector of employer and proportion in full time and part time work. Where there are statistically significant differences between demographic groups these are discussed in more detail.

About Business in the Community is the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. Our members work together to tackle a wide range of issues that are essential to building a fairer society and a more sustainable future. The race equality campaign at Business in the Community is committed to improving employment opportunities for ethnic minorities across the UK.

Responsible business is about how a business makes its money not just how it spends its profit. It is about managing growth responsibly while reducing dependency on natural resources. It is about how the business operates as an employer, supplier and customer and how as a neighbour it helps to create vibrant communities where people can flourish.

With the encouragement of strong leadership, we are proving responsible business can be a force for positive change – and that tackling social and environmental issues can return financial value.