What can you do to improve ethnic representation in your business? The answer to that is 'not a lot' if you're not collecting the data that shows you what the problem is.
This is in the news again after the TUC published results of a poll showing a third of ethnic minority workers have been unfairly turned down for a job. It shows that BAME employees are more often overlooked for pay rises and promotions compared to under a fifth of white workers who reported the same treatment. The TUC is calling on government to act now to challenge structural racism in the UK.
People Management reports the findings and quotes Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, who says the pandemic has “shone a spotlight on the racism faced by BME workers around the country”. The article reminds HR that employers need to hold themselves accountable for trends that show racial bias in their promotions processes and that all managers should engage in unconscious bias – we'll come back to that point shortly.
Personnel Today covers this story too sets out the three main steps the TUC wants the government to take which are, mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, a ban of zero-hours contracts and publication by employers of equality impact assessments showing how Covid-related decisions are arrived at and the effect on ethnic minorities. The Daily Mail highlights the impact of the pandemic on minority groups, citing a number of experts who warn that black and ethnic minority people are being put at risk by what they call the UK's 'colour-blind' Covid vaccination strategy.
The results of the survey are available from the TUC’s website and there’s a lot to take from it. Kate Dodd has been looking at the data and what it tells us – she joined me by video link from Manchester to discuss it:
Kate Dodd: “It’s a really interesting one and I don't think it's actually going to be a surprise, really to anybody. I mean, it really is quite stark. There's obviously over 2,000 workers that were surveyed in relation to this and it showed, really, that the minority ethnic staff were treated less favourably at every stage of the employment process compared to the white people who responded to the survey. I suppose some of the headlines were that 33% of minority ethnic staff compared to 19% of white staff reported being unfairly turned down for a job. In relation to pay rises, again it was very stark - 29% of staff from minority ethnic backgrounds reported being unfairly overlooked for a pay rise compared to 22% of white staff. Also, 28% of workers from minority ethnic backgrounds talked about being unfairly overlooked for promotion compared to 21% of staff from white backgrounds and that was actually really interesting because staff from minority ethnic groups are actually more likely to look for jobs specifically that allow for career progression, and allow for things like training opportunities, they're twice as likely, the statistics show, to look for jobs specifically that have that kind of career advancement opportunity there so, actually, that figure probably is worse given the fact that minority ethnic people are more likely to look for progression etcetera. One of the things I think that is also quite stark is the fact that the pandemic job market is so insecure. We know that there are real issues going on, we know that there is lots of insecure, working, gig economy etcetera, and that people are on contracts that don't offer them any security. Another thing that was quite interesting here was that workers from minority ethnic backgrounds were twice as likely as white workers to be in insecure jobs so we know that there is a real problem here. Stats also showed that during the pandemic the unemployment rate for people from minority ethnic backgrounds has risen at more than twice the rate of unemployment rates for workers from white backgrounds. So really, I think it's quite stark that across every aspect of employment there is inequality and there is unfairness.”
Joe Glavina: “So what, if anything, can be done about it Kate? Practical steps employers can take?"
Kate Dodd: “Well the TUC has recommended three things for businesses to prioritise and they sound pretty sensible to me. The first thing is mandatory ethnic pay gap reporting and also the publication of that, and the action plans to go alongside those to try and improve that gap. I talk a lot about data and this data is absolutely essential. We need to make the ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory and it's not just about publishing your pay gap and saying look there it is but also, of course, having something there to say, look, this is what we're going to do about it, this is how we're going to reduce it. Employees are used to doing that around gender pay gaps so there's no reason why employers can't extend that to ethnicity pay gap reporting. The second thing that the TUC recommended was banning of these zero hours contracts and, again, that's for the benefit of everybody. You know, there are employers that that need to have flexibility but there are alternatives to zero hours contracts and we know that zero hours contracts have got a particular impact on people from minority ethnic backgrounds, of course, going back to the statistic I gave you before in relation to how many people are employed on these insecure type contracts. Then the third thing that they recommended was the publication of equality impact assessments, looking at the impact of Covid-19 on their workforces and for those to be published and to be very transparent in those equality impacts as to how it has impacted on their minority ethnic workforce. So those are the three things that the TUC are recommending.”
Joe Glavina: “This data has received a lot of publicity Kate and a lot has been said about it. There are calls for unconscious bias training for all staff. I'm guessing you agree that's a good idea?"
Kate Dodd: “Yes absolutely. We've talked about unconscious bias training before and it definitely has a really strong part to play in all of this. The fact that people are not getting promotions, the fact that people are overlooked for pay rises, is unlikely to be down to the fact that somebody is being deliberately racist, or deliberately saying to somebody, well, you know, you're not getting this, and I'm going to give it to your white counterpart instead. What goes on, though, across every industry, across every sector in our society is this idea of 'fit' – so that person fits, they look good, their face is going to fit in this, or they're going to fit well into our team, or I can see them as a manager, and this idea that there are certain people who are right for certain roles etcetera, down to basically what they look like, and down, of course, to who's already doing those jobs. You know, we decide who fits based on who's already doing it and in a society where we've got far more white people in senior roles and senior management etcetera, it's no surprise that it's much harder for somebody from minority ethnic background to visualise doing that role because there is an absence of role models and people continue to hire, to promote, to pay etcetera according to completely unconscious decision making by the very fact that they're not aware of it, they don't know how to guard against it, and they don't know how to do anything about it. So the data is absolutely essential here. Unconscious bias training alone, if it's off the shelf, if it isn't well planned out, isn't going to make any difference. What it has to be coupled with is data about what is going on in each business. So once you know what is happening in your business you can make sure that your unconscious bias training addresses it. So if you know that you've got an ethnicity 'stay gap', which means if you know that your minority ethnic staff stay in your company statistically less time than your white employees then you know you've got an issue there that, for some reason, those people don't feel that they've got a long term future with you, or they don't feel that they're being treated fairly, or something there, statistically, is going wrong. Furthermore, if your data shows that it takes somebody from a minority ethnic background longer to get promoted, or once they are promoted they get paid less, statistically, or maybe they're not promoted into such a senior position, for example. So all of these different things can be established via data and once you've got that data it allows you then to plan the interventions that you need. So, things like unconscious bias training or inclusive leadership training, or inclusive recruitment training, or should you be doing specific training about understanding promotion? So you need that data to inform the decisions that you've got to make about how you train and how you help people to start to realise and understand their own biases and how that's impacting on your workforce.”
If you'd like to take a look at the results of that TUC poll you can. It's all set out on the TUC website and we have put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to TUC survey on the treatment of BME workers