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Institutional racism still rife in the workplace, says TUC

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Institutional racism in the UK labour market traps too many black and minority ethnic workers in poverty, insecurity and low pay, says the TUC.

This contrasts the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report published yesterday (31 March) which concluded that Britain was not institutionally racist.

However, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said institutional and structural racism exists in the UK, in both the labour market and wider society. 

She said: "I had hoped that the Commission would have recommended action to stamp out insecure work and make employers act to close their ethnicity pay gaps.

“Instead, the Commission has chosen to deny the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers and be complacent about the UK’s progress towards being an anti-racist society.”

According to the TUC, one in six (16%) BME workers are employed on insecure terms and conditions, compared with one in 10 (10%) white workers.

Male BME workers are also 57% more likely to be employed in jobs with a higher male mortality rate than white male workers.

Dawn Morton Young, HR consultant and D&I specialist, told HR magazine the report's findings are far from the truth.

She said: "The report admits discrimination is likely to be a part of the story of lower employment rates in minority groups, however the finding that minority children are performing at the same or higher level than white children is used to come to the conclusion on institutional racism in the report. 

"Lumping all minority groups with their differing cultural, parenting and historical experiences together is dangerous, and leads to the question why these same minorities who are reportedly doing so well in the UK schooling system, do not have the same success in the workplace, and more specifically the boardroom?"

Morton Young said HR can help navigate these conversations within the workplace and recommended that in the absence of mandated ethnicity pay gap reporting, they should do it anyway.

"A quarter of larger companies such as PwC have been doing this for some time, and have found that it allows senior stakeholders to see the good, bad and ugly around progression for minority ethnic groups in their company. 

"Organisations are then able to use the data as a business case for targeted work to address disparity," she said.

The government report, written by educational consultant Tony Sewell, recommended public and private organisations move away from unconscious bias training and instead develop resources and evidence-based approaches to boost equality within the workplace.

Joseph Lappin, head of employment at law firm Stewarts, told HR magazine that while it can be a useful exercise, unconscious bias training cannot be seen as the answer to all an employer’s troubles

He said: “It would be wishful thinking to expect that the workplace will quickly become more diverse and free from inequality by inviting staff to attend such training.

“The main benefit of unconscious bias training is that it helps individuals to consider and identify their own ingrained views.”

Lappin said only when this happens can an individual take steps to reduce the impact of such prejudiced ways of thinking.

“It is natural for people to shy away from confronting their own biases, let alone to think about the impact that such unhelpful biases may have on their work.

“Therefore, it definitely can help to improve inclusion and diversity in the workplace, cultivating a culture of improving oneself and creating a better environment for their colleagues,” he said.