Racial discrimination is “rife” in UK business, with black employees affected most, new research has revealed.
They are more than twice as likely to experience racial discrimination, with nearly one in five (19%) reporting it, compared to Asians (9%) and mixed ethnic minorities (8%).
As many as 22% of employees have personally experienced or seen
discrimination of some sort in their workplace, with many citing race as the primary
pretext (55%), the study found.
‘Racial equity and business success should not be separate conversations’
According to Henley Business School (HBS), which carried out the research, companies that have targeted measures specifically to support ethnic minorities benefit from higher revenue, as well as greater employee output and loyalty
Businesses that treat their employees equally, regardless of ethnicity, are achieving up to 58% higher income, it said.
But white business leaders are “significantly less likely” (30%) to recognise discrimination in their workplace, compared to ethnic minority leaders (47%), the study found.
More than two-thirds (70%) of those surveyed said their senior leadership was white.
Lead researcher Naeema Pasha, director of equity, diversity and inclusion, HBS, said: “Racial equity and business success should not be separate conversations.
“It is critical to any organisation wanting to achieve its aims and ambitions in this challenging world of work.
“Of course, we all want to say that racism has no place in business, education or society.
“But the experience of the pandemic and social movements like Black Lives Matter have shown us that we need to shift our organisational, cultural thinking to ensure we work on racial equity – not just because it is a good thing or seen as worthy, but because it is valuable and essential to organisational success.”
Racial discrimination endemic
HBS said a growing number of UK businesses were providing targeted support to ethnic minority employees in order to bring them to an equal footing with their white counterparts and achieve racial equity.
But racial discrimination and other racist behaviour are endemic in Britain’s workplaces, the survey found.
Discrimination in work allocation was reported by morre than two in five (41%) survey respondents.
Verbal abuse was cited by one in three (33%), and inappropriate and unfair application of work policies or rules by 29%.
‘Dedication to a culture of diversity drives creativity’
HBS said its findings were based on interviews with 1,005 employees and 505 business leaders, as well as its research of publicly available sources.
Ms Pasha added: “Business leaders need to see that by tackling race and adopting an inclusive culture, they can improve almost all parts of their organisation, including wellbeing, engagement, sustainability and innovation – which all then contribute to the bottom line.
“Dedication to a culture of diversity drives creativity; if we all thought and acted the same, where would we get the innovation in our organisations?
“Fairness in diversity and inclusion leads to a better sense of belonging, which leads to better outcomes for all employees – of all races.”
‘Racial equity is an untapped resource’
Ollie Folayan, chairman of Aberdeen-based AFBE-UK, the membership network devoted to promoting diversity and inclusion in engineering and other sectors, said the HBS study findings highlighted key issues.
He added: “We often think of disparity, whether it be gender, race or disability as a problem to be tackled.
“But what this report by Henley Business School demonstrates is that racial equity is an untapped resource which, if understood, could lead to significantly better outcomes for our businesses.
“This understanding, in a world recovering from the global pandemic, is of vital importance.”
In order to promote equity, firms must be prepared to accept racial inequity exists, Mr Foloyan said, adding: “Only by acknowledging there are systemic problems can the system be changed.
“Let’s use this moment to implement policies that result in an equitable workplace as that provides great benefits for us all.”