Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that Heathrow have been awarded Tea Break solution Trailblazer status!


The Tea Break provides the framework and opportunity for an organisation to hear the honest voice and feelings of its colleagues about race inequality. All employees are invited to a one-hour themed, online discussion about an issue that matters. This initiative was developed through the Solutions Collaboratory™ in collaboration with Network Rail and its staff network, Cultural Fusion, Mental Health First Aid England and those with lived experience from other organisations. In a 2022 Race Equality Matters’ Event, 85% of attendees thought that Tea Break would facilitate their organisation to have uncomfortable conversations about race inequality. The Tea Break methodology enables courageous conversations. This gives the organisation and its senior management insights and the opportunity to address concerns and issues that are being shared.


As well as being awarded the Tea Break Trailblazer status, Heathrow have also made further genuine steps towards tackling racial inequality by their successful implementation of #MyNameIs. The independent judges – all of whom are ethnically diverse – unanimously agreed that their application demonstrated that significant action had been taken in addressing racial inequality through the Tea Break initiative. Through this, other organisations can learn and implement Tea Break in their own workplace.


Tea Break


Hard Truths: Listening to ethnically diverse employees

Heathrow’s en-haNCE Network has been running Tea Breaks since 2016 under the name “coffee mornings”, renaming them to Tea Talks in 2021. They chose to run Tea Breaks because they contribute to their efforts to raise awareness of intersectionality and they use them as a platform to collaborate with other networks and their members to spotlight these intersectional experiences.


They maximised engagement by ensuring their choice of Tea Break topic resonated with their ethnically diverse community and the topic is often determined by the most common area of concern expressed by colleagues to the en-haNCE steering group via ad hoc conversations or from the surveys. Topics include: Accents, Appearance and Appropriation; Recruitment, Career Development & Professional Survival; and #MyNameIs.


Making a difference:


By having different topics and an array of speakers, Heathrow’s Tea Breaks demonstrate a wide variety of viewpoints and voices being presented to the audience, challenging attendees to think differently and consider different perspectives and as a result the discussions are always far more dynamic, engaging and inspiring. From these, several work streams have been identified and are being actioned to help address racial inequality and improve inclusivity at Heathrow, from employees discussing with line managers to implement ideas in their immediate business areas to the EDI team working collaboratively with the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy to run a series of focus group sessions to share their thoughts and suggestions on how to improve prayer rooms located across the business.


Tea Breaks have also seen an increase in endorsement from senior leaders as well as engagement and positive feedback from both ethnically diverse colleagues and allies. For example, Tea Breaks regularly get 30 plus attendees, not including those who watch the recorded sessions after, and the en-haNCE Network membership has increased by approximately 200% since September 2021.


Creating Change and Impact


Judging panellists praised Heathrow’s application with one panellist commenting that “they have clearly observed the benefits of running Tea Break sessions and they have evolved them over time”. Panellists further commended how Tea Talks focused around the 4 Cs (connections, challenges, concepts and changes).


They also all highlighted the employee and senior leadership buy-in that the Tea Breaks had gained and another mentioned how the initiatives they pursued created real insight that invited a data informed approach to decision making as they utilised the feedback to consider the future.


Next Steps…


As Heathrow continues its journey to tackling racial inequality and evolves Tea Breaks over time, they hope to:


  • See more people join their network and take an active role within it, as steering group members, liaison officers or champions within their wider teams
  • Collaborate more with other network groups within the organisation to increase awareness of intersectionality
  • Establish more external relationships with diversity networks from other business and industry sectors


Follow Heathrow’s Lead: Become a Trailblazer


If your organisation is driving change for Race Equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnic background employees and share future plans; register your interest to be considered for the next round of trailblazers.



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