Black employees more ambitious than white peers but held back at work, poll finds

BITC report calls for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, describing it as ‘inconceivable’ that government wouldn’t uphold its pledge on this

Black employees are more ambitious than their white counterparts but face more barriers at work, research has found.

A poll of more than 24,000 UK employees by Business in the Community (BITC) found 74 per cent of black respondents wanted to progress in their careers, compared to just 42 per cent of white respondents. However, a third of black respondents (33 per cent) felt their ethnicity would be a barrier to their next career move – a concern shared by just 1 per cent of white respondents.

The report, Race at Work: Black Voices Report, found discrimination extended beyond career progression. A third of black employees (33 per cent) reported experiencing or witnessing racial harassment from a manager, and 17 per cent said they had experienced or witnessed it from a colleague. This compared to just 13 per cent and 5 per cent of white employees respectively.

These disparities also extended to remuneration. While 42 per cent of white, Asian and mixed or multiple ethnicity group employees felt they were being paid the correct amount for the work they did, just 36 per cent of black employees felt the same.

The report called on the government to uphold its promise, made in 2018, to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for companies with more than 250 employees – similar to the requirements that already exist for gender pay gap reporting. 

Sandra Kerr, race director at BITC, said it was “inconceivable” the government would not uphold this pledge given the disproportionate impact the coronavirus outbreak had had on black and minority ethnic individuals.

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“In a year that has seen the normal rules of business and government thrown out of the window and shown so clearly the full impact of race discrimination on black people’s lives and livelihoods, it is inconceivable that the government will not meet its 2018 promise,” she said.

“Covid-19 has shown me that, when they work in partnership, the government and the private sector can achieve great things. Together, they can invest in ethnicity pay gap reporting and take a step towards a more equal society.”

The BITC report also called on employers to do more to support black employees in the workplaces – including by having senior leaders actively sponsor black talent in their organisations. The survey found 33 per cent of black employees wanted a senior sponsor (an influential person within their organisation who could advocate on their behalf) compared to just 12 per cent of white respondents.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, welcomed the report and its calls to action for the government and employers. “The report’s recommendations, such as the need for employers to set targets to increase the representation of black people at senior levels, the importance of allyship and the need for senior leaders to sponsor talented black employees, provide a template for meaningful change,” he said.

Cheese also backed the report’s call for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting, “which is something the CIPD has also been advocating”, he said.