Over the past ten or so days, following the murder of Black US citizen, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer, we have witnessed protests around the world – from hundreds of thousands marching in the streets to various industries/celebrities/brands participating in a #blackouttuesday to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
If you are unaware of what has been going on, or need further clarity on why this is happening then here are some brilliant resources:
As a result of the awful events over in America and, the subsequent showing of solidarity throughout the world, a lot of businesses are now taking time reflect and to assess their own internal practices and education with regards to equality and diversity within their own setting.
Diversify Your Workplace
The simple fact is that it is far more difficult for Black people to get jobs, particularly in corporate or executive positions, than their white counterparts.
Statistics show that six months after leaving university, Black graduates are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than White graduates, and those that are employed have to send, on average, 60% more job applications than their white counterparts before receiving a positive response from employers.
Firstly, as an employer you may wish to assess diversity within your own workplace by speaking to your Black employees and obtaining their views on recruitment practices and promotional opportunities within your business.
Over many years, recruitment practices have encompassed the requirement for equal opportunities forms to be completed, but how many businesses actively monitor and review these regularly and as part of all recruitment campaigns or promotional opportunities? It is probably not as many as you think.
Another idea may be to involve all employees, but particularly Black employees, in the review of all your assessment frameworks within your recruitment and promotional processes to see if any practice or criterion would distinctly disadvantage Black employees or candidates, that has not been identified before. Whilst you may think that you are compliant with the Equality Act 2010, and no decent employer would be directly discriminatory, it may be that tweaking your criteria or practices may prove beneficial.
By speaking to your employees, you may find different outlets for your recruitment advertisement strategies. You could start an initiative at your company that teams up with a local secondary school or college in an underserved and predominantly Black area, to give those who are 16 and over the opportunity to intern with you during school holidays.
One of the key elements within the recruitment arena is training those managers involved in sound recruitment practices, such as making them aware of obligations under the Equality Act and how unconscious bias can influence conscious decisions.
What is unconscious bias we hear you say! Unconscious biases are learned stereotypes about people that everyone forms without realising it, such as social stereotypes about an individual or group of people.
Whilst everyone has unconscious bias to some degree, they are not necessarily aligned with one’s conscious values. For example, when you see a stranger with a shaved head and tattoos what preconceptions do you form about their character?
Many may assume that this person has a criminal record or that they are ‘aggressive’ based on the way society has portrayed people who have shaved heads and tattoos which has then been ingrained into your way of thinking without even being aware of it.
So, by making people aware of unconscious bias, it may lead to recruitment managers questioning their own though processes and opening their minds to more diverse recruitment practices.
If you use an agency or third party to help with your recruitment process and you find that there is a clear lack of diversity in the candidates that they send your way, you need to question them on it. Make it clear that you expect to see applicants of ALL races for EVERY job that you advertise, otherwise you will be taking your business elsewhere.
The Ethnicity Pay Gap
There is a clear and growing divide in the salary of a Black person compared to their White counterpart.
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics last year revealed that White employees earn, on average, 3.8% more than their Black colleagues.
Though the UK introduced Gender Pay Gap Reporting in 2017 which requires businesses with 250 or more employees to publish specific figures about their gender pay gap to bring about equal pay for men and women in the workplace, the ethnic pay gap has not received the same treatment.
There are rumblings that the government are consulting on a new legislation that will mandate businesses to report their ethnicity pay gaps in the same way, but this is yet to happen.
It may not be required by law yet, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of the ethnicity pay gap and do your part in addressing and eradicating it by ensuring that the jobs being carried out are being paid consistently across the board, regardless of ethnicity.
You could take it upon yourself to produce a report similar to the Gender Pay Gap Report for your own internal use. It will highlight any prejudice, conscious or unconscious, when it comes to salary differences between your White and Black employees.
It isn’t a case of giving all your Black employees a pay rise so that they are being paid the same as their White counterparts – this is counterproductive. Instead, make that decision as you would when considering giving any employee a pay rise; assess their performance and workload, consider how long it has been since their last pay rise and whether the business can afford it.
Take Action Against Discrimination
Possibly the most important, and the easiest, thing you can do is to listen to your Black employees, and not just when they have an idea or suggestion for the business but, even more so, when they present you with an issue they have faced relating to discrimination or racism in the workplace.
It’s important to understand that racism is not just racial slurs or name-calling, it can be covert and performed in a series of micro-aggressions such as telling a Black employee that they can’t wear their hair in braids/afro/any other cultural way or making assumptions about what they eat/wear/listen to based on their skin colour.
Even comments such as “I’m surprised at how articulate you are” or “where are you from?” can be triggering and offensive.
When a Black employee (or any employee on behalf of a Black employee) approaches you, or HR, to raise a grievance or concern, it is your responsibility to listen and take the appropriate action.
Discrimination and racism in UK workplaces is prevalent and should never have been, and can no longer be, swept under the rug or brushed off as “banter”.
Just as you would pursue an investigation when a worker accuses a colleague of sexual harassment, you must also take any accusations of discrimination or racism as seriously.
Support A Local or National Charity/Organisation
There is a plethora of brilliant and worthwhile causes that support the Black community in the UK that you could use your platform to raise money and awareness for, some of which I have listed below.
Black Lives Matter UK
This is both a movement and a non-profit organisation which aims to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities.
Black Minds Matter
This organisation aims to empower and educate young people by providing them with a safe space to share their experiences and challenges, facilitating a programme of knowledge and supporting the self-development of young people, particularly those from underserved and marginalized communities.
Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Founded as a result of the racist attack on Stephen Lawrence in 1993 which led to his death, this charity helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds between the ages of 13 and 30 to succeed in their career of choice.
Show Racism the Red Card
The UK’s largest anti-racism educational charity. They deliver workshops to more than 50,000 people every year, whilst also providing specialist training to teachers with the aim of challenging racist attitudes and breaking down barriers within communities.
If you’re an employer or business owner and you would like to discuss diversifying your workplace or discrimination at work further, then please call us on 0845 2626 260 or email us at [email protected]