Racial harassment on the rise in UK workplaces

A comprehensive study from Business in the Community has uncovered that instances of racial harassment and bullying have increased over the past year

Racial harassment on the rise in UK workplaces

It’s hard to deny that more employers are latching onto the moral and commercial value of having a diverse workforce. However, a new report from Business in the Community, the charity that promotes responsible business, has highlighted that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to tackling racism in British businesses.

Conducted in partnership with YouGov, the Race at Work report surveyed 24,457 employees across the UK, making it the largest study of race at work ever undertaken in the UK. While it found that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people have greater ambition than their white colleagues, enjoy their work more and are more likely to be included in succession planning, 30% of those surveyed said they had witnessed or experienced racial harassment in the past year, an increase from previous years. Moreover, 55% of BAME employees said they feel like a valued member of their team, compared to 71% of white employees.

The report goes on to suggest that UK workplaces are less comfortable talking about race than they are age and gender: 37% of respondents said they believed their colleagues are comfortable talking about race, while 44% thought they were comfortable talking about age and 42% about gender. 

In response to the findings, Business in the Community has called on the government to include ‘and race’ in the UK Corporate Governance Code’s definition of diversity for listed companies – it is currently defined as ‘diversity, including gender’ – and ensure that businesses tendering for public contracts can demonstrate a commitment to race diversity. It has also urged the government to draw up a policy framework on race to promote good practice and close the unemployment gap, as well as consider commissioning a review into race equality in the workplace with a focus on senior management, similar to the Davies Review of women on boards. 

Meanwhile, it has called on employers to promote training and awareness of racial bias in the workplace, including mandatory diversity training for managers; ensure that managers at all levels set objectives around diversity and inclusion; take action to erase racial harassment and bullying in the workplace; and review succession planning lists to ensure the inclusion of diverse talent from all ethnic groups.

“It is clear that ethnic minorities’ experiences of work are still not equal to their white peers,” said Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community. “Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of the workplace processes and cultures for BAME employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action.”

Clearly these are some worrying findings and the onus is now on the government and businesses to act on the recommendations. 

Adam Pescod
Adam Pescod

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