On 31st August 2022, the TUC issued the largest representative poll on ethnically diverse employee experience about racism in the workplace. The report- Still rigged: racism in the UK labour market– is a prescient reminder that systemic racial inequality in the workplace remains.
Responding to the findings, Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, stated:
“We know too that Black workers are on the frontline of insecure work, being massively over-represented on zero-hours contracts and in low-paid jobs. This study underlines the overwhelming need for change.”
Historically, poll data on ethnically diverse communities has been limited due to the tendency to over-represent those who are more affluent, better integrated and UK-born. The TUC’s report based its findings on a representative weighted sample of 1,750 Black and Ethnic Minority workers in the UK to understand their experiences at work and their experiences of raising the issue of racism in the workplace. Some of the key findings included:
- Racism: Two in five BME workers reported experiencing racism at work in the last five years.
- Inability to Report: Only 19 per cent of those who had experienced harassment reported the most recent incident to their employer.
- Insecure Work Conditions: Almost one in five BME workers (18 per cent) had to work two or more jobs for financial reasons. 15 per cent have worked on a zero-hours contract at some point in the past five years.
- Resignation and Low Retention: Over 120,000 ethnically diverse workers have quit their jobs due to racism.
These findings have triggered a response from many who wish to share their experiences of racism in recent years. Whilst many wish to share their lived experience anonymously, through platforms such as My Experiences Matter, others wish to share and start open conversations through social media. One person on LinkedIn reflected on their experience of racism at work, sharing that:
“My first day as a contract director, I turn up on site and the reception staff asked if I was the new cleaner! I have never been mistaken for a Director or Board member, but have regularly been mistaken for the cleaner, the caterer, the receptionist, the nanny, and one time, part of the entertainment.”
How should we respond to these findings on racism in the workplace as employers, employees and allies?
A poll conducted at Race Equality Matters’ recent event, with over 300 attendees, also identified sustained issues of racism in the workplace. Whilst 63% of attendees felt their leaders were committed to tackling racism in the workplace, over 50% of attendees felt their organisation did ‘nothing’ to ‘a little’ to successfully tackle it. Race Equality Matters believes that change is achieved through action, not just words, that can be achieved through the Solutions co-created by those with lived experience of racism:
- Safe Space: to provide a protected environment to enable brave conversations.
- Tea Break: to hear the honest voice and feelings of colleagues.
- The Big Promise: to achieve commitment to action not just words.
- My Name Is: to share your name and improve inclusivity.
- Virtual Badge Campaign: to be united and part of a movement that creates change.
- Trailblazers: to spotlight organisations that are successfully taking impactful action.
As one of our guest speakers informed attendees at a Safe Space workshop event:
“It [Safe Space] helps to reinforce commitment to change for the employees if senior leaders are involved – our employees really do feel heard and listened to now.”
Who is responsible for tackling race inequality in the workplace?
Taking meaningful action for positive change will help us tackle race inequality. Whilst systematic policy change is essential, collective action within your organisation will kickstart change too. The TUC report found that about 21% said their employer had an anti-racism strategy/action plan and only 13% said their employer collected race data. More needs to be done to tackle race inequality. The TUC stated that:
“What is needed instead is a collective, pre‐emptive response that promotes equality and dignity for everyone, gives confidence to all staff that they need not stand for discrimination or bullying, and makes dealing with racism at work everyone’s responsibility.”
Change can start before the government commits to mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting.
Change can start today, with your organisation in the lead.
How will your organisation ensure dealing with racism at work becomes everyone’s responsibility?
We would value your thoughts. If you want to see change and race equality in the workplace, join the Race Equality Matters’ movement.