Ethnicity pay gap: been there, got the t-shirt?

The issue of the Ethnicity Pay Gap must be addressed robustly and quickly. This means action needs to be taken now.

Theresa May has recently announced that she wants more employers to report on their race pay gap. The news follows various stories highlighting the ethnicity pay gap. In September, we heard from the Guardian about the disparity of pay between black medics and white medics. In July, ITN reported on its ethnicity pay gap, which had found a mean pay gap of 16.1% and a mean bonus gap of 66%. Prior to this, Deloitte had reported similar findings – its mean ethnicity pay gap was 12.9% and the bonus gap was 41.9%.

Will reporting on the ethnicity pay gap address the disparity experienced between BAME employees and their white counterparts? As always, the devil will be in the detail, the timeline it takes to get action and the willingness for organisations to comply.

The discrimination faced by BAME people in the workplace is, of course, nothing new. Back in February 2017, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) commissioned a report by Ruby McGregor-Smith, which found that BAME individuals in the UK are both less likely to participate in and then less likely to progress through the workplace, when compared with White individuals.

As McGregor-Smith rightly pointed out, this is not only unjust for BAME people, but the lost productivity and potential represents a huge missed opportunity for businesses and impacts the economy as a whole.

“The potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of BME individuals across the labour market, through improved participation and progression, is estimated to be £24 billion a year, which represents 1.3% of GDP”, she wrote at the time.

The ethnicity pay gap is an important part of giving BAME individuals this “full representation” that McGregor spoke of.

The government understands this, which is why it has this year commissioned new research into how organisations are addressing this issue. Meanwhile, a cross party meeting is to be held in parliament on 23rd October 2018 to discuss Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting.

However, as with other areas that look at the treatment of diverse groups, producing statistics does not create a paradigm shift in attitudes. Instead we become laden with data which people read but don’t usually do anything about.

It can no longer be acceptable for organisations to pay those with an ethnic background less than their white counterparts.  Do these leaders really think that we do not deserve the same pay as white people?

It is my belief that corporate racism plays a huge part in this as does the unwillingness of organisations to promote ethnic minorities into senior roles. This is borne out in both the McGregor- Smith Review and Racism at Work: The Danger of Indifference written by Binna Kandola.

Fundamentally, the ethnicity pay gaps shows that people with an ethnic background are being discriminated against and therefore it is an unlawful practice.

The issue of the Ethnicity Pay Gap must be addressed robustly and quickly. This means action needs to be taken now.  HR can provide data analysis on pay and any gaps exist, and employers should invest in more robust equality and diversity strategies that include enforcing fairness in recruitment and promotion.

Importantly, the Ethnicity Pay Gap will not be rectified without our voices being heard. The #EthnicityPayGap movement was started to raise awareness of these issues. There is also a survey that you can fill in that is collecting data and experiences.

And if you are open to publicly demonstrating your commitment to the movement, you can even buy a t-shirt.

Dianne Greyson is director at Equilibrium Mediation Consulting