People of all ethnicities and backgrounds should have equality of access, treatment and outcomes, throughout the employee lifecycle. From getting a job, to accessing training and receiving a promotion, employees should feel empowered and be able to realise their full potential at work. 

Employers who take action to ensure equal progression and participation in the workplace, across people from all black and ethnic minority backgrounds, will benefit from attracting and retaining the best people, addressing skill shortages, and improving performance in the process.

CIPD viewpoint

The need to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces with equality of outcomes and impact has been recognised but not acted on for too long, and ethnicity pay reporting can serve as a catalyst. 

Research published in 2017 by the CIPD showed that there is a significant lack of black and ethnic minority people represented at the top of UK organisations. Black and ethnic minority employees are more likely than those from a white British background to say they have experienced discrimination, that their career progression has failed to meet their expectations and that they have felt the need to change aspects of their behaviour to ‘fit’ into the workplace. 

As well as the cost to individuals of missing out on job opportunities due to prejudice or bias, employers who don’t act will be left with a more limited talent pool, and inequalities in progression opportunities mean people’s skills will be underused. 

In 2021, we published our race inclusion reports, which are a series of comprehensive studies of race equality in the UK. The reports show that there needs to be much more engagement with employees on race equality, and that data collection needs to be improved. The reports also highlight that career progression opportunities need to be fair and transparent. 

While there has been some shift in board composition, it has not been to the extent or pace required. It is important to build on the success of campaigns that have increased female representation at the top of organisations to make significant strides with race equality. 

The CIPD is actively contributing to UK Government consultations on the issues and supporting employers to drive sustainable change in their organisations. For example, in 2019, the CIPD in consultation with senior level members provided practical recommendations to the UK Government on whether organisations should be required to report on the pay differentials between people from different ethnic backgrounds. 

We were also one of the first organisations in the UK to sign the Race at Work Charter. Internally, the CIPD’s EmbRACE employee action group on race and ethnicity is actively working with HR to raise staff awareness of issues and advise on action the CIPD needs to take as an organisation.

Recommendations for employers

  • Build the business case for increasing diversity and inclusion in terms of attracting a wider, more diverse talent pool and boosting innovation and customer service by developing a workforce that is more reflective of the organisation’s customer base and wider society.
  • Identify levels of ethnic diversity using HR data and use this benchmark to explore any structural and cultural barriers that are maintaining workplace inequalities.
  • Avoid generalisations: ‘BAME’ encompasses a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and traditions and many different barriers to career progression. We recommend following the Race Disparity Audit’s recommendation, referring to ‘ethnic minorities’ instead. 
  • Review recruitment practices to eliminate bias and discrimination. This could include how and where employers recruit new workers, whether the images and language used in recruitment materials are inclusive, line manager interview practices and the approach of recruiters working on employers’ behalf.
  • Review people processes to retain black and ethnic minority people. Identify barriers in career progression and ‘cliff edges’ where employees leave, and address these. Also consider race equality through an intersectional lens such as the combined effects of discrimination experienced because of a person’s race, gender, or disability and ensure interventions are tailored to addressing multiple barriers and disadvantages.
  • Build an inclusive culture. Ensure that race equality is embedded into the organisation’s vision, mission, values and business plans. Ensure policies and practices are underpinned by race equality outcomes and impact principles that proactively address discrimination and disadvantage including through the use of positive action measures that actively celebrate and encourage difference. Identify whether there are mechanisms in place to enable employees to voice issues about inequality and need for change. Take steps to understand where the workplace is now (evidencing the baseline), and what could be done to improve inclusivity (action plan).
  • Terminology - we advise employers to be sensitive in the usage of language and terminology on race equality and wider equality, diversity and inclusion. This should include engaging and inviting input from experts and staff with lived experience. The CIPD uses the term ethnic minority to describe all people from minority backgrounds who experience bias, barriers, disadvantage, and discrimination.. We use this term as it is currently the most commonly used. We recognise that no one term will resonate with everyone and respect the uses of other terms where broad categorisations are required. However, we would advise and encourage organisations to be as specific as possible (eg Afghanistan, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Gypsy, Indian, Roma, Pakistani, Nigerian, Somalian, Ukrainian), wherever possible.   

External resources 

Equality, diversity
and inclusion

Discover how to promote equal opportunities and manage equality, diversity and inclusion in your organisation

Callout Image

More on this topic

Case study
Improving diversity in the workplace: Bupa Arabia

A case study on how Bupa Arabia developed a framework for diversity and inclusion following the Bupa Global model, illustrating their commitment to EDI in the workplace

CIPD Viewpoint
Religion and belief

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on religion and belief, including actions for Government and recommendations for employers

More CIPD Viewpoints

CIPD Viewpoint
Religion and belief

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on religion and belief, including actions for Government and recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Responsible business

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on responsible business, including recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Flexible working uptake

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on flexible working, including recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Employee health and wellbeing

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on health and wellbeing at work, including recommendations for employers

All CIPD Viewpoints