Top UK businesses have been advised by business minister Margot James to improve black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) diversity voluntarily or be subject to mandatory diversity requirements.
James urged employers, in a letter to FTSE 350 companies across the UK, to act on the recommendations set out in a recently published McGregor-Smith review into career opportunities for black and ethnic minority groups.
The Race in the Workplace report outlined 28 recommendations to employers, which included a published breakdown of their workforce by race and pay, set aspirational targets and nominate a board member to deliver those targets.
The review found that BAME individuals were being held back in their careers because of the colour of their skin. It was found that employment rates for BAME groups were 13% lower than their white peers, while only 6% were in executive-level positions.
In her letter, James said: “It simply makes no business sense for people to be left behind because of their ethnic background and I am asking FTSE 350 companies to play their part in driving the agenda for greater diversity in the workplace. Genuine and lasting change must come from within the business community and I encourage companies to take forward Baroness McGregor-Smith’s recommendations.”
It has been interpreted that James’ letter hints that regulatory measures may be put into place if these recommendations are not heeded, with her stating, “We will [deliver] a clear and coherent message to the business community and the public sector on what needs to be done.”
BAME diversity is still a contentious topic with People Management reporting last month that businesses were “still in denial” about racial barriers at work, while the Federation of Small Businesses voiced fears that in promoting BAME groups it would create more red tape for smaller employers.
However, Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey, researcher at the London School of Economics department of management, has said that any measures to encourage BAME diversity are likely to be successful due to the obvious effectiveness of targets for gender diversity.
“Improvements in gender diversity have been made and, while organisations did not achieve their 25 per cent female representation targets all by themselves, they responded to some of their gender diversity issues partly because they wanted to avoid legislation,” he said. “The McGregor-Smith review recommended that organisations with more than 50 employees should publish pay gaps between ethnic groups. Businesses have made great progress with gender – it’s now time to turn their attention to race and ethnicity.”
On the other hand, Neil Carberry, CBI director for people and skills policy, commented previously on the McGregor-Smith review stating that he felt it was more important to take a “business-led approach” to plans, targets and reporting to addressed BAME diversity, rather than taking a regulatory stand.
Race equality director at Business in the Community, Sandra Kerr OBE disagrees and see the government’s drive to tackle BAME diversity as a “great opportunity” for businesses to get BAME equality in the workplace right. She told People Management: “The independent review by Baroness McGregor-Smith showed improving race equality in UK businesses could be worth £24bn to the economy. And with one in four primary and secondary school children having an ethnically diverse background, employers simply cannot afford to miss out on future talent.”
VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email email@example.com for more information.
We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.