Action against racism - the time is now.

Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director shares key points from the All Parliamentary Group, held yesterday to launch the Race at Work: Equality, Diversity and Racism in the Workplace report. 

This week - squashed in between all the debates on Brexit and triggering Article 50 - was the launch of the Race at Work: Equality, Diversity and Racism in the Workplace from the University of Manchester.  This report was commissioned by Business in the Community because of the overwhelming volume of comments and contributions to the Race at Work survey we launched in collaboration with YouGov in the summer of 2015. The stories told by the survey participants are sobering. The persistent nature of the challenges linked to inequality, racism and discrimination demonstrate that there is a need for a step change in action – remember we have had equality legislation in place for more than 50 years – yet we can still produce such a report – a spotlight on race in the workplace in the UK today.

Key issues discussed were:

  • Leadership – the need for greater diverse representation at senior levels and the need for leaders in positions of influence and power to act.
  • Progression: the persistent challenge of the slower progression of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority people in the workplace the need to ensure fairness in opportunities through access to good work.  The need to ensure that all the different ethnicity groups and that true inclusion enables everyone to progress, develop and use their skills and talents – this includes the White working class.
  • Recruitment: the persistent unemployment rate gap between BAME and White job seekers.  This gap has existed since 1991 when records began – a step change in action is needed now if we are to see progress and see this gap narrowed. The need for better data supported by the government was another call so that accurate benchmarks about where we are can be used as a platform for employers to set targets for progress, as well as legislation to support these targets.

Major calls for action include:

  • The need for greater transparency. We need data capture on the diversity of workforce at all levels and better local data with key demographic information by location and sector to enable targets to be set.
  • Consider geography, location and occupational segregation for context and understanding any additional challenges that may bring.
  • Need for role models and senior representation in the workplace to attract and retain diverse employees.
  • Introduce standard reporting: how representative are the employers in comparison to their customers and the communities they are located in.
  • Government to take action to tackle the persistent challenges with the employment of Asian women and Black men – and not moving people into zero hours contracts, causal and or unstable part-time work as a solution.
  • Government should use its procurement levers to influence change.
  • Employers tackling racial harassment and bullying need to look at managers, colleagues, customers and contractors.
  • Ensuring all sectors, private, public and voluntary take action.

The next challenge will be to translate all of these messages of support into tangible actions.