A new report commissioned by the Government argues that institutional racism is not present in the UK. Instead, the report describes how modern Britain fosters a system which ” is [no longer] deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”. 

According to new findings published by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, systematic and institutionalised racism are not main factors driving disparities between ethnic groups in the UK.

Instead, racism is deemed a “catch-all explanation” and the Commission stress it is other factors such as geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion which have more of an impact on life chances.

Despite this, the report did stress that “outright and overt” racism was present in the UK and the Commission stated that they “do not deny” its presence as a real force.

In terms of the workplace, one of the recommendations made by the Commission was linked to advancing fairness at work.

In order to do this, the Commission called on organisations to now move away from funding unconscious bias training, as the Civil Service did at the end of last year. Instead, it urges this training should be replaced with new interventions which can be measured effectively.

This could include using sponsorships to ensure more people from minority ethnic backgrounds are exposed to decision makers at their firms. It also calls for training and skills support to be made available for all employees, regardless of their background, which the Commission believe could “disproportionately benefit more disadvantaged groups”.

Employers have also been urged to play a role in improving ethnic pay disparities through publishing ethnicity pay figures. In addition, the report also states that companies should publish a diagnosis and action plan to lay out the reasons for and the strategy to improve any disparities.

BAME, a phrase commonly used by HR professionals to describe employees from an ethnic minority background, has also been criticised as “no longer helpful” by the report. It states that the term should be dropped and instead, workers should be referred to by their specific ethnic background to avoid adopting a monolithic attitude.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

Its crucial that employers take steps to ensure there is racial equality in their workplaces and tackle discrimination where it exists. 

This includes ensuring that progression and pay is fair regardless of people’s race, other personal characteristics or background, which is why we’re disappointed that the commission has not gone further and recommended the introduction of [mandatory] ethnicity pay reporting and greater transparency.

Racial equality at work is not just about participation in employment but also about progression into more senior roles. Pay reporting can highlight organisations and sectors where this is not happening, providing key information for employers on where they need to focus attention.

We will work with the Government to encourage organisations to take up voluntary reporting and will continue to provide support for employers on how they can analyse and report on their ethnicity data as part of developing effective strategies and practices to advance workplace equality.


The full report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities can be found here.