Every person, in recognition and respect of their ethnicity and  background, should be enabled and empowered to have equal access and outcomes throughout the employee lifecycle – from getting a job, benefit from training to getting promoted and be able to fulfil their fulll potential at work. Employers who take action to ensureequal progression and participation in the workplace, across people from all black and ethnic minority  backgrounds, will benefit from attracting and retaining the best people, address skill shortages and improve performance in the process.

CIPD viewpoint

Every person, in recognition and respect  their colour and ethnicbackground, should be enabled and empowered  to fulfil their full potential at work. 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. 

CIPD research shows that there is a significant lack of black and ethnic minority people diversity 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 take action will be left with a more limited talent pool, and inequalities in progression opportunities mean people’s skills will be underused. 

The CIPD recently published the Race Inclusion Reports, one of the most comprehensive studies of race equality in the UK. The reports show that there needs to be much more engagement with employees on race equality, data collection needs to be improved, and 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 at the 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 ethnic diversity. 

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 diversity. Identify barriers in career progression and ‘cliff edges’ where employees leave and address this. Also consider race equality through an intersectional lens such as the combined effects of discrimination experienced  because of a persons race,gender, disability and ensure interventions are tailored to addressing multiple barriers and disadvantages.
  • Build an inclusive culture. Ensure that race equality is embedded into the organisations 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 and 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 language and terminology and to use race equality inclusive language, being sure to engage and invite input from both their own staff lived experience and experts. The CIPD has used the term black and ethnic minority in full to describe all people of colour and minority ethnic backgrounds who experience bias, barriers, disadvantage and discrimination. We have used this as it is presently most commonly used. We recognise that no y one term will resonate with everyone and respect other terms.   

More on this topic

Bitesize research
Removing dates from CVs can help people return to work

Why focusing on years of experience could help reduce bias against returners

For Members
Thought leadership
Gender pay gap reporting: Where’s the story?

Charles Cotton, the CIPD's Senior Policy Adviser on performance and reward, looks at how the gender pay gap varies by sector and employer size, and asks why more employers aren’t being open about their pay practices

Thought leadership
Childcare reforms: What is needed for a successful rollout?

James Cockett, Labour Market Economist at the CIPD, analyses the UK Government’s recent budget announcement on childcare reforms and the challenges in the sector

Thought leadership
Are the barriers to social mobility being addressed in the workplace?

Research shows less than 1 in 10 organisations are focusing on improving social mobility at work. Dr Jill Miller, the CIPD's senior policy adviser on diversity and inclusion, discusses how employers can take action

More CIPD Viewpoints

CIPD Viewpoint
Productivity and people management

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on productivity and people management, including actions for Government and recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Low pay and financial wellbeing

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on low pay and financial wellbeing, including actions for Government and recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender reassignment

Explore the CIPD’s point of view on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender reassignment, including recommendations for employers

CIPD Viewpoint
Religion and belief

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

All CIPD Viewpoints