Against a backdrop of further evidence and allegations of continued racism and discrimination against people from minority ethnic groups in the UK, the CIPD gave evidence to a recent House of Commons select committee inquiry on ethnicity pay reporting. 

CIPD’s senior reward adviser Charles Cotton and appeared in front of the Women and Equalities Committee in January and highlighted why CIPD is in favour of mandatory ethnicity pay reporting. 

The committee subsequently published its report and backed the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay reporting from April 2023

We now wait for the UK Government to decide whether it will legislate to require firms with over 250 staff to report annually on their ethnicity pay gap as further events highlight ongoing concerns over endemic racial and religious discrimination in the UK.

These include Azeem Rafiq’s harrowing experience in Yorkshire Cricket Club and more recently Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani’s allegations that she lost her ministerial role due to her “Muslimness being a problem”. More broadly the pandemic has exposed deep systemic racial inequalities across our society.

CIPD’s view is that while ethnicity pay reporting is no panacea in itself it can start to consistently show where pay gaps and inequalities exist in organisations and be a powerful prompt to help change people management and development practices to create more inclusive organisations.

To help employers understand how leaders, people professionals, line managers and employees can collectively prevent racial discrimination and improve equality in the workplace, CIPD has been working with BITC to support the Race at Work Charter. This requires organisations signing up to commit to key principles that can enable them to make meaningful change. We have now relaunched our employer’s guide to Meeting the Race at Work Charter which is a practical framework tool that can help organisations deliver rapid progress to help eradicate racism and deliver real race equality outcomes.

The BITC Race at Work Charter was launched in 2018 linked to the BITC’s Race at Work Scorecard, which originally comprised of five calls to action for organisations to improve race equality, inclusion and diversity in the workplace. It looked at how UK employers were performing against the recommendations outlined in the McGregor-Smith Review. In 2021 this Charter has been expanded to include allyship and inclusive supply chain commitments.

To reflect these and other changes the CIPD’s Meeting the BITC Race at Work Charter for employers guide has been updated and now comprises of the following seven commitments for employers:

  1. Appoint an executive sponsor for race.
  2. Capture ethnicity data and publicise progress.
  3. Commit at board level to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying.
  4. Make clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers.
  5. Take action that supports ethnic minority career progression.
  6. Support race inclusion allies in the workplace.
  7. Include Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically-led enterprise owners in supply chain.

Why is this guide critical?

As referenced above, not since the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the consequent landmark recognition of institutional racism in organisations, has there been such a focus on tackling racism.

Many organisations are rushing to recruit ethnic minority people. While this is a good thing, the question is, will they join and if so, will they stay? If there is not a genuine culture of inclusion and diversity, ethnic minority people will vote with their feet.

Embrace lived experience and intersectionality

The lived experience of ethnic minority people of racism, race discrimination, and inequalities in employment and pay outcomes, are exacerbated by intersectionality (multiple overlapping discrimination based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, faith, disability, socioeconomic status (class), sexuality, mental health, accent and other experiences).

It is vital to embed race equality into strategic plans, as a business-critical priority. This should be underpinned by:

  • root-cause and risk analysis including: pay gap analysis reporting,
    understanding the depth of racial inequalities - systemic and institutional barriers,
  • data collection, such as attitudinal/satisfaction surveys of ethnic minority colleagues.
  • Leaders at every level need to challenge their understanding of the lived experiences of marginalised groups, to deliver robust systematic change. A keen focus on anti-racism is just the start. The leadership of organisations should be exemplars of race equality and inclusion. Becoming racially inclusive affects every organisational function, and as such will not be delivered in a few short months.

If recent examples of high-profile race discrimination have taught us anything, it is that Black people and other people of colour are fed up with systems of governance that fail to support them. We have learned that systemic racism, is endemic and defines the lived experience of ethnic minority people throughout their lives.

Authentic race equality leadership

This is why there needs to be authentic race equality leadership and governance with real accountability including:

  • Effective investment of time, energy and resources,
  • performance management with consequences for non-delivery,
  • Race equality reflected in values and vision.

The journey of embedding race equality and inclusion starts and ends with leadership, but requires ownership at every level. An assumption should never be made that because someone holds a leadership position, they are aware of diversity and inclusion, its implications, or the intersectionality that pervades it.

Positive action race equality culture and competence

Cultural competence is vital for effective race equality leadership, training and development - to increase understanding of the issues around racial discrimination. Building a consistent focus on all forms of discrimination will support organisations to develop outcomes-focused initiatives tailored around the specific needs of marginalised groups and the lived experience of individuals.

This includes taking positive action to redress discrimination, disadvantage and bias – past, present and potential. This should go beyond mere legal compliance. Organisations should aspire to exemplify race equality leadership, with strategies including:

  • De-biasing or race equality-future proofing policies, strategies, people plans, recruitment, selection, progression, training and development, procedures and practices;
  • Establishing reciprocal mentoring,
  • Sponsorship/allyship,
  • Race equality leadership programmes and; creation and resourcing of staff networks.

Creating a culture of race equality involves valuing ethnic minority peoples lived experience, strengths and vulnerability, supporting them to share their experience and achieve their full potential. Crucially, race equality culture change is about creating an internal organisational movement, which requires more than a top-down mandate. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their shared perception of everyday actions and values.


The CIPD employers guide, whilst being a potentially powerful and practical tool, will only help support meaningful change if there is the necessary leadership and commitment behind this. It recognises that leadership in many organisations is still predominantly white, which means that white leaders need to take ownership, with both hearts and minds, to make a real difference. Failure to do this will send the message that leadership, and consequently, the organisation, is not being authentic.

Race equality, diversity and inclusion must be at the forefront of everything an organisation does- integral to its culture, behaviours, values, products and service delivery. It starts and ends with leadership, but it is a responsibility for all. The damage caused by centuries of entrenched systemic racism, will not be undone in a few months. It is going to take time and a real will to change. The current social discourse around racism should be a wake-up call for organisations. No longer will people tolerate a situation where ethnic minority people are discriminated against on the basis of the colour of their skin, religion or any other characteristic.

About the author

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy

Ben leads the CIPD’s Public Policy team, which works to inform and shape debate, government policy and legislation in order to enable higher performance at work and better pathways into work for those seeking employment. His particular research and policy areas of interest include employment relations, employee engagement and wellbeing, absence and stress management, and leadership and management capability.

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