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Black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees feel forced to leave current job to progress career, report finds

Glass ceilings are forcing UK employees from BAME backgrounds to leave their current jobs in order to progress, according to a report released today by Race for Opportunity, Business in the Community’s race diversity campaign.

Breaking Down Barriers surveyed 1,557 full-time employees from eight ethnic groups within the UK, including white Britons. The report investigates the levels of ambition among British workers from a BAME background and reveals the barriers preventing them from achieving those ambitions. It found nearly a fifth of BAME employees have never been promoted, and on average receive far fewer promotions than their white counterparts.

In contrast, white British employees, having the lowest levels of ambition yet, are being promoted at a far greater rate. There is, however, no ceiling to the ambition of ethnic minority workers in the UK, with the majority aspiring to lead an organisation. What is clear from the report is that levels of ambition vary between the different ethnic groups. The report found that African, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani employees were the most ambitious, with African and Indian employees consistently topping the ambition scales. This high level of ambition within the BAME workforce is matched in confidence, with seven out of 10 ethnic minority employees certain about their next career move. Despite this confidence, nearly half of BAME employees feel that they have to leave their current employer in order to progress.

In stark contrast, less than a third of white British workers felt they had to do the same. This has to be a serious concern for businesses that are failing to engage, retain and progress their employees on an equal basis.

Nearly 60% of Pakistani, 55% of African and half of Chinese employees do not feel their line manager supports them. There is inadequate provision for training, with ethnic minority respondents saying they had been on fewer than two training schemes in the past year. And almost a third of Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani workers said they had not been on a training course at all in the past year, compared with white British workers, who said they had been on more than two. Sandra Kerr (pictured), national director of Race for Opportunity, said: "It is blindingly obvious that organisations are not providing BAME employees with adequate support at both line and senior management levels and training. Being equipped to do their job to the best of their ability is the basic right of any employee in order to feel valued in their employment and be able to work towards achieving their career ambitions. We asked employees from all backgrounds what they wanted from their employer and they responded with three simple demands: feeling valued, proper pay and adequate training. In all cases, it is hard to understand why employers have failed to deliver on these fronts." The report highlights that this is not simply a matter limited to employers, but is also highly prevalent in the recruitment industry. For the great number of BAME individuals looking for a new job to further their careers, only a small minority feel that recruitment agents treat people from their ethnic background fairly when putting them forward for roles. Almost three-quarters (73%) of Bangladeshi and 72% of Caribbean employees and more than two-thirds of Pakistani respondents said they had been treated unfairly when using a recruitment agency.

Sandra Kerr added: "Our Breaking Down Barriers report reveals a BAME workforce that is highly ambitious, has its career targets mapped out, yet is still meeting significant roadblocks at every turn, preventing it from progressing at a reasonable rate. The Government, employers and the recruitment industry must redouble their efforts to ensure that support, reward and training are equally available to all employees. This is the only way to ensure the country enjoys genuine equality in its workforce."

In response, the organisation has launched its 'Bridging the Value Gap' toolkit, which has simple steps for senior leaders, line managers and individual employees to adopt in order to bring about a culture of value and respect throughout a business's hierarchy.

The toolkit has separate value hierarchies for senior leaders, line managers and individual employees, addressing tools and guidance on appropriate and considered conservation of their diversity strategy, performance mentoring, career coaching, active sponsorship and outcome measurement.