Employers are missing out on BAME talent, Says Sandra Kerr director of Race for Opportunity.
The latest Office for National Statistics figures on ethnic minority employment make for a worrying read.
UK unemployment has decreased year on year, but the rate of change for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees is much slower – a decrease of 7.3 per cent in joblessness compared with 11.4 per cent for white employees.
Additionally, all BAME groups have higher unemployment rates than their white peers, and TUC research shows there is a disproportionate number of BAME workers on zero-hours contracts and in low-paid roles.
These statistics add up to a much greater concern, that any economic recovery fails to fully include Britain’s BAME population. The figures also prompt the question: ‘Is work really paying for many BAME employees?’
With a quarter of the UK population projected to come from a BAME background by 2051, businesses must ensure they are recruiting from ethnic minority groups.
So what can employers do to reach the widest possible talent pool?
Race for Opportunity’s Gender and Race Benchmark found that employers that hired proportionate numbers of ethnic minority and white candidates were more likely to do certain things. For example, monitoring the progression of candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds through the recruitment process and setting targets for ethnic minority recruitment at every level of the organisation, while also making external recruiters aware of the targets.
Such employers also have a strong business case for diversity, including race, with a board or senior level champion as well as mandatory training on unconscious bias for staff involved in recruitment.
These firms use a variety of recruitment channels, including company websites and ensuring that they look for talent outside the traditional ‘milk round’ universities. They also involve ethnic minority people in different stages of their recruitment process including interview panels where possible.
In addition to these things, it’s also important that employers do not bundle all BAME groups together. It’s better to examine the different experiences of each ethnic minority group and of ethnic minority men and women; the latter often face the ‘double barrier’ of ethnicity and gender.
Finally, examining ethnicity pay gaps and types of contracts BAME workers are on may also address barriers, particularly in terms of BAME employees’ progression within organisations.
All of these things are about employers working to ensure their policies and processes are fair and transparent and as free from bias as possible.
Some employers are already taking these steps, but many are not. It may be that they need approval from their board or need a senior leader to promote action, or they have not started monitoring so are not aware that their workforce isn’t diverse, or simply that they’re nervous about getting started on the race agenda at work.
We know discussing race in the workplace may feel uncomfortable – that’s why we’re running the UK’s largest ever survey of race at work, to find out the true picture of ethnic minority employment today and to help us to start the conversations. Anyone aged over 16 and in employment can share their experiences at www.raceatwork.org.uk.
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