Toggle high contrast

The Race Disparity Audit shows that we can't wait any longer for change

Published date
The government’s long-delayed Race Disparity Audit has just been released, revealing how Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities are systematically losing out when accessing public services, such as housing and healthcare.

It comes just months after the  McGregor Smith Review highlighted the barriers facing BME workers in employment. 

When launching the audit, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before.”  

So where does this report leave us? While more transparency about the race discrimination faced by BME Communities is welcome, what we need is government action.

Theresa May’s response to the McGregor Smith Review was to argue that a business-led voluntary approach was the best way forward, instead of calling for new legislation as a way of bringing about lasting change.

Sadly, she missed the point that companies have had decades to change things by a voluntary approach.

We believe that it's essential that the government shows leadership and takes action.  Our recently published report ‘Is Racism Real?’ revealed that one in three BME workers (37%) have been bullied, abused or experienced racial discrimination by their employer.

The publishing of the Race Disparity Audit gives the government an opportunity to tackle all forms of racism and discrimination BME workers experience in our workplaces and communities.

Here are five clear recommendations that we believe the government and employers should implement to tackle racism at work.

  1. Legislation requiring employers to publish data on race and recruitment, salary, promotion and dismissal

One in five (19%) BME workers who took part in our poll reported they had experienced discrimination. The most common form of racism they faced at work was institutional racism, which included being denied training or promotion.

We believe that the structural and institutional nature of racism in the workplace has resulted in BME workers suffering from occupational segregation and being trapped in low-paid jobs.

Employers should establish an ethnic monitoring system that covers recruitment, promotion, access to training, performance management, disciplinary and dismissal. And be made to regularly publish this ethnic monitoring data.

We are calling on the government to legislate to ensure that companies and businesses employing more than 50 people publish a breakdown of employees by race and pay band

  1. New third party harassment rules to protect workers who deal with the public

A significant number of workers experience racial abuse from customers, clients and contractors. Employers have a legal duty to protect workers from abuse from colleagues and managers but employers do not have a responsibility to protect workers from abuse from customers and clients. This is a major concern for workers who are public facing such as nurses, care workers, retail staff and transport workers.

A BME worker told us his experience of verbal abuse at work:

This usually happens when people are drunk or under the influence of drugs. I have experienced quite a few incidents mostly on the weekends and in the night. A few months ago a man was on the wrong train and he was drunk. I had to get involved as he was smoking on the train and refused to get off. He said to me ‘What are you doing here? You are a black b******.

It is unacceptable that public-facing workers face abuse from the public. We believe that employers should take action to ensure that workers are protected. All employees have a right to work in an environment without discrimination or fear of harassment or abuse.

We are calling on the government to change the law to make employers responsible for protecting their workers against racism by third parties; such as clients, contractors and customers.

  1. Zero-tolerance policy for racism at work

Every employer should have a zero-tolerance policy for racism at work. No form of racism and discrimination should be tolerated.

While many employers do have equal opportunities policies in place they may need reviewing as they may have been in place for a long time. These policies need promoting to all workers, customers and clients.

The TUC wants all staff to be trained on how to deal with any abuse they witness or receive whether in the workplace or from others. It should be made clear that any form of racist discriminatory or abusive remarks is not acceptable.

We are calling on employers to ensure they have a strong equality, diversity and dignity policy that explicitly includes zero tolerance of racism.

  1. A clear process for reporting racism and discrimination

BME workers should feel confident they can report their experiences and raise concerns about racism. Our research shows that the most common form of reporting is informally to family members and friends.

However, many BME workers worry about the consequences of raising concerns with employers. This could be because they fear not being taken seriously or being seen as a troublemaker. Some report being afraid of being singled out for abuse again or even losing their job.

We believe that it is vital that BME employees have confidence they will be supported by their employer to deal with the issues of racial discrimination and harassment if racism at work is to be successfully tackled.

Employers should also make sure there is a simple method for BME workers to report racism and discrimination by ensuring that BME workers feel confident that complaints about racism will be taken seriously, acted on and dealt with satisfactorily.

Bosses need to make it clear that they will support all staff who raise concerns about racism and act to protect staff who are subject to racial abuse.

  1. Work with trade unions to establish targets and develop positive action measures to address racial inequalities at work.

Trade unions play an important role in dealing with racism at work. BME workers are well represented in the trade union movement and for a long time we have campaigned against racism and discrimination. Unions have continued to organise and support BME workers by also delivering training and guidance on how to tackle racism in the workplace.

Employers should work with trade unions to establish targets and positive action measures that will improve BME access to promotion and in-work training. The measures should also include a BME progression plan.

There also needs to be a plan to tackle the concentration of BME workers in low-paid jobs particularly BME women who experience both racism and sexism. Every effort needs to be made to close the ethnic pay gap between black and white workers.

Racism and discrimination affects all BME workers and we cannot afford to wait any longer for change.