Being able to talk about race at work is the foundation for action to address racial inequality. Communication and understanding between employees and with their leaders enables the building of trust, support between groups and ensures that the needs of diverse groups can be expressed and responded to. This report highlights actions that employers and people professionals can take to encourage these conversations and create safe spaces in their organisations. 

This report is the first of a three-part series, which outlines some of the key areas employers can act on with regard to race inclusion in the workplace. 

Key findings 

  • Over a third (35%) of respondents felt there is a need to talk about ethnicity at their current organisation, rising to nearly half (45%) in the public sector, dropping to 38% in the third/voluntary sector and dropping further still to 30% in the private sector. 

  • Forty percent of ethnic minority employees feel the need to talk about race, whereas only 23% of white British workers do. 

  • The findings in the BITC toolkit for allyship reports that only 38% of employees say they are comfortable talking about race in the workplace. 

  • Employee network groups were most commonly cited as those who initiate conversations about ethnicity, with senior leaders next, and HR the third most likely initiators. Overall, more respondents are comfortable speaking to their colleagues about ethnicity and race (77%) than to any other groups. 

  • Only a third (33%) of respondents overall stated that they had talked to someone in their current organisation about ethnicity or race, compared with 61% who had not. 

  • There are significant barriers to overcome, such as increased trust in senior management, to enable organisation-wide conversations about race. When there is strong trust in senior management, 73% of employees are comfortable talking to HR about race; with weak trust, this drops to 47%. 

  • Ethnic minority group respondents are more likely than white British ethnicity respondents to feel: people are not interested in having conversations about race (22% vs 14%), they are sceptical about whether things will change following conversations (16% vs 3%), that people in their organisation are ignoring that there is an issue with race (13% vs 2%). 

  • Using someone’s specific ancestral origin (such as Caribbean ethnicity) is considered appropriate by the highest number of respondents (25%). However, 20% of respondents said they do not know which terms are most appropriate or inappropriate, underlining the lack of certainty in this area. 

Race inclusion: Talking about race at work

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In this series

Reports

Race inclusion report: Encouraging ethnicity data disclosure

We look at the importance of collecting ethnicity data to identify under-representation in the workplace 

Reports

Race inclusion report: Equality of career progression

We look at factors which could be enablers or barriers to progression in the workplace 

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