Government failing to take ethnicity pay gap seriously, experts warn

‘I’ll be honest and say I’ve struggled to engage the current equalities minister to get things moving,’ says Sandra Kerr CBE, race director at Business in the Community

Nadine White
Wednesday 12 January 2022 21:46
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<p>In September, the government said it was considering an independent report on the ethnicity pay gap</p>

In September, the government said it was considering an independent report on the ethnicity pay gap

Ministers are failing to take ethnicity pay gap reporting seriously, experts have warned during a parliamentary session on the topic.

In September, the government said it was considering an independent report on the ethnicity pay gap by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and would “respond in due course” - however there has been no follow-up on this.

Sandra Kerr CBE, race director at Business in the Community, said it has been difficult to engage with politicians on the topic and hence progress around the introduction of mandatory reporting has “stalled”.

“Everything changed: we have had the pandemic, change of government, change of minister then things stalled,” she told the women and equalities select committee on Wednesday.

“It has stalled because there was no minister [to oversee this] and I’ll be honest and say I’ve struggled to engage the current equalities minister to get things moving.

“We had an open letter to the prime minister, which we published in October 202, with 30 businesspeople saying ‘can we implement this now?’. We know we’re not the only voice on this.”

Other witnesses for the session included Matthew Percival, programme director for skills and inclusion at the Confederation of British Industry; Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and Wilf Sullivan, equality officer at the Trades Union Congress.

Campaigners further outlined the importance of making this reporting mandatory, as opposed to voluntary.

Speaking to this point, Mr Sullivan said: “The fact that progress has been so slow on something that we see as really basic in terms of data collection, so that employers can evidence inequality in their workplace, underlies the point that there needs to be regulation around this.

“It’s about having an approach which is fair to everybody; you can’t have some businesses putting the effort in, spending the money to do things to improve the situation in the workforce, and other employers that don’t.

“From our point of view in terms of this whole debate there’s been a lot of agreement across businesses and trade unions that this is something that should happen.”

He added: “I don’t think measuring ethnicity pay gap is an end in itself; the question is identifying disparities in terms of inequalities in the workplace and pay is a fairly basic indicator of what’s going on there.”

The call comes days after Ethnicity Pay Gap Day on 8 January, named so by #EthnicityPayGap Campaign, an organisation founded to raise awareness of the gap and encourage the government to make ethnicity pay disparity reporting mandatory.

Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found that just 13 FTSE 100 companies report any ethnicity pay gap.

According to the Office for National Statistics, across 2012 to 2019, those of Chinese, white Irish, white and Asian, and Indian ethnicities typically made more than white British people, but many other ethnic groups including black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab consistently earned less than those of white British ethnicity over the same time period.

The ethnicity pay gap was largest in London, at 23.8 per cent in 2019, and smallest in Wales at 1.4 per cent.

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