Employers urged to ‘drive change with confidence’ with new CIPD race at work guide

Fresh guidance includes recommendations for businesses signing BITC’s Race at Work Charter to help ‘stamp out’ racial inequality in the workplace

Businesses are being urged to “play a key role in levelling the playing field” and improve the ethnic diversity of their workforces with the help of new CIPD guidance, released today (31 March).

Working in partnership with Business in the Community (BITC), the body has issued a new practical guide – Meeting the BITC Race at Work Charter – to support organisations pledging to sign BITC’s Race at Work Charter to combat inequalities and improve inclusion among their employees.

BITC’s charter, which launched in 2018, signals an organisation’s intent to foster race inclusion, and comprises five calls to action: appoint an executive sponsor for race; capture ethnicity data and publicise progress; commit at board level to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying; make clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers; and take action that supports ethnic minority career progression.

The guidance includes recommendations around meeting the five calls to action, as well as specific advice for small businesses. 

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The CIPD was one of the first organisations to sign up to BITC’s Race at Work Charter and we recognise its value in making workplaces more inclusive and diverse at every level. We hope this new guide will be a useful supplement for signatories and help them to drive through change with confidence and at pace.

He added: “We would also urge employers who have not yet signed up to the charter to do so. The pandemic and economic downturn has further highlighted the inequalities faced by ethnic minorities, and employers should play a key role in levelling the playing field.”

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Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community, said: “This guidance shows how signatories can stamp out racial inequality in the workplace by prioritising leadership, advocacy, allyship, transparency and accountability. The 630 signatories to the Race at Work Charter – covering more than 5.5 million employees – are proof that more employers are getting serious about equality at work. 

“I hope that this guidance helps them make that ambition a reality and that the CIPD's support inspires even more employers to take action and sign up to the Charter.”

Anjali Raval, associate at Howard Kennedy, highlighted that having practical guidance would be extremely helpful for businesses. “Lots of employers have good intentions in relation to taking meaningful action, but a lot don’t know what they need to do yet. This guidance will help with the multi-faceted approach businesses should be taking to help diversity and inclusion. 

“Fundamental to success will also be capturing ethnicity data, because it’s really important to have a targeted approach to what they want to achieve, where the gaps are and how they can show improvement year on year. 

“You’d hope there’d be progress after putting in place these suggestions, but without data, you can’t measure it. Employers will need to be mindful of their data protection obligations, and ensure they have a lawful basis for processing employee data.”

However, Bayo Adelaja, chief executive of Do It Now Now, said: "There are many pitfalls to be wary of when it comes to the implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion policies and strategies in the workplace. This is particularly true of smaller businesses without the ability to hire the right staff or consultants to ensure that these practices are effectively embedded into their systems of working. 

"Unfortunately, the burden of implementing this charter will likely fall to one of the few people of colour in the organisation who will also likely not be given the proper tools or training needed to make the charter work. This charter must not be a replacement of skilled expertise in this area and people of colour should not be unfairly tasked with fixing a system of oppression they did not create."