22% of UK employees report facing discrimination in workplace, survey finds

Black employees were more than twice as likely to agree that they have been passed over for a promotion, the research suggests

Aine Fox
Wednesday 09 August 2023 04:41 BST
<p>More than a fifth of UK employees surveyed said they had experienced discrimination in the workplace, according to a survey</p>

More than a fifth of UK employees surveyed said they had experienced discrimination in the workplace, according to a survey

More than a fifth of UK employees said they have faced discrimination in the workplace because of their identity but the figure was lower than in the US and other European countries, according to new research.

People from black and Asian backgrounds, as well as those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community were more likely to have experienced such issues, the survey suggested.

Some 4,973 people from the US, UK, France, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands were surveyed online in May and June this year by data and market research company Savanta.

Of the 1,523 who were based in the UK, 22 per cent said they had experienced discrimination at work due to an aspect of their identity.

This was below the 28 per cent average across the six countries, with people appearing to be worst affected in the US (33 per cent) and Sweden (32 per cent).

But the findings for people in the UK among under-represented groups suggested more experiences of discrimination, with a figure of 45 per cent for black people and 41 per cent for people from an Asian background.

A third (33 per cent) of people from the LGBTQ+ community said they have experienced discrimination in the workplace.

Some 42 per cent of UK employees surveyed agreed there were inequalities in pay and promotion within their organisation – just below the 45 per cent average across all countries.

Black employees were more than twice as likely as the UK average to agree that they have been passed over for a promotion, at 58 per cent compared with 24 per cent.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of UK employees reported they had left a role or were considering a move in the near future because they did not or do not feel comfortable expressing their views, according to the research.

Sadia Corey, vice president of client development at Savanta, said: “It’s worrying to learn that such a high number of employees have felt discriminated against in their place of work – with many under-represented groups having similar experiences.

“While much discrimination comes as a result of unconscious bias among workers, managers and company policy, there is clearly more to be done to ensure that the workplace is a safe space for everyone.”

But the research also suggested some positives, with 84 per cent of people in the UK whose employer has a diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) task force reporting they feel it has been effective at implementing change, and 70 per cent agreeing that such training has been effective.

Just over half (51 per cent) of UK employees reported that their employer addresses important social issues as they arise through holding meetings and webinars and sending out newsletters, while 47 per cent said their employer validates all gender identities by for example encouraging workers to put their pronouns in their email signatures.

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) agreed that their employer creates an environment where all religious beliefs and identities are respected, the research found.

Ms Corey added: “The good news is that there looks to be some progress among UK employers.

“Employees recognise that most employers are working hard to resolve these issues, and while there is still work to do, senior leaders should be relieved that their DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives are starting to make a difference.“

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