UK still uncomfortable talking about race, new survey finds

Business in the Community (BITC), the Prince’s Responsible Business Network, has today published the findings of the 2021 Race at Work survey which captures the views of over 24,600 employees in the UK. The survey found that the UK is still uncomfortable talking about race with only four in 10 employees saying that their employers are comfortable discussing race in the workplace, increasing only by 3% since 2018.

The survey also found that Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse employees are twice as likely than White employees to have experienced or witnessed racist harassment from managers, customers, clients, and colleagues. 

As part of the survey results, BITC is calling on the Government to protect employees from being subject to racist harassment by introducing provisions in the upcoming Employment Bill.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • An increase of 8% of employers capturing ethnicity pay gap data, increasing from 11% in 2018 to 19% in 2021.
  • Six in 10 White employees say that they feel they have an equal opportunity in the workplace, compared to five in 10 Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse employees.
  • There’s been a 11% shift in the number of senior leaders acting as executive sponsors at the top table promoting equality, equity, fairness, and inclusion, an increase from 33% in 2018 to 44% in 2021.

After the first Race at Work survey in 2015, BITC launched the Race at Work Charter. The Charter has more than 780 signatories, representing 5.8 million employees across the UK. By signing the charter, organisations have committed to improving equality of opportunity in the workplace. 

The 2021 Race at Work survey provides an update on racial equality in the UK, four years after the publication of the 2017 McGregor-Smith review.

Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community said,

“The results of the Race at Work survey are encouraging, the data is moving in the right direction but there’s still a lot of work to do. Organisations need to make talking about race and equality in the workplace something of the norm, until there is a shift and safe space to have these conversations, change will be a long time coming. The tragic murder of George Floyd has brought about the opportunity to have important and long-overdue conversations, and we must keep the momentum going.


“Business in the Community has been calling for companies to be legally required to publish their ethnicity pay gap data to give transparency to employees and job seekers, and it’s great to see an 8% increase in the number of companies reporting this data. While ethnicity pay gap reporting won’t solve everything, it will help focus on where action is needed most.”

Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE said,

“It is great to see the progress being made by businesses using the recommendations from my review. There is still more to be done to see true equality however, and one major issue addressed in this report is mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting. Whilst it is great to see that the Government is supporting employers to report their data, that is only the beginning. This report shows the increase in businesses taking action by publishing their ethnicity pay gaps. These may seem like small steps, but they are big ones.”

Richard Iferenta, Partner, KPMG, and Chair of the BITC Race Equality Leadership team said,

“What we are seeing through the survey results is the start of a long overdue shift in priorities, as equality, diversity and fairness become areas of focus for business leaders. Publishing and committing to targets for representation and inclusion is arguably one of the most effective ways to demonstrate business commitment, but it’s just a starting point. Any targets set to address the concerns seen in the report need to be accompanied by concrete steps and accountability to ensure that the right measures are being implemented.”

  1. Findings from 2021 show that 41% of employees say that their organisation is comfortable discussing race in the workplace, increasing from 38% in 2018
  2. The full 2021 Race at Work survey results are attached
  3. Sign-up Race at Work – https://www.bitc.org.uk/race-at-work-charter-signatories/

About Business in the Community

Business in the community is the oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. We were created nearly 40 years ago by HRH The Prince of Wales to champion responsible business.  We inspire, engage and challenge members and we mobilise that collective strength as a force for good in society to:    

  • Develop a skilled and inclusive workforce for today and tomorrow; 
  • Build thriving communities where people want to live and work; 
  • Innovate to sustain and repair our planet. 

www.bitc.org.uk  

For further information, please contact Aoife Butler Nolan, Head of Media, Public Affairs and Policy on 07702 903 216.

READ THE REPORT HERE