Our Employment Consultant Clayton Williams looks at the recent study that found Black and Minority Ethnic employees at a disadvantage, and the resulting government call for employers to publish a breakdown of their staff by race and pay.

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills asked Baroness McGregor-Smith to lead an independent review to look at the obstacles faced by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) individuals when trying to progress at work. 

In her study, Baroness McGregor-Smith, has urged large employers to advance the agenda for improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The benefits are potentially substantial and would increase GDP by up to 1.3% per year if workers progressed at the same rate as their white colleagues, meaning the UK economy could benefit from a £24 billion yearly boost.

The review uncovered that employment rates for people from BME backgrounds are 12% lower than their white counterparts with a mere 6% reaching top level management positions.

A further concern, highlighted in the report, demonstrates that people from BME backgrounds are more likely to work in lower paid and lower skilled jobs despite being more likely to be a graduate.

In her recommendations, Baroness McGregor-Smith, has called on large employers to lead the charge to make the workplace more equal and representative of our society. In tackling barriers to BME progression, companies with more than 50 employees should:

  • Publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band
  • Draw up five-year aspirational diversity targets
  • Nominate a board member to deliver on these targets

The success of the programme will depend on the willingness of large firms to engage with the process. The government has ruled out legislation to produce data, opting for a voluntary approach instead.

Sandra Kerr, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community, said:

“As this review clearly shows, harnessing the very best of BME talent is the only way forward that makes sense for employers. But this change has to be business led.”

If businesses fail to take the lead, legislation might be the only way of bringing about lasting change. Only time will tell.