The government has published its response to the report published in March 2021 by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The government has produced a policy paper entitled, “Inclusive Britain”, setting out a number of action points and tangible measures in response to the Commission’s recommendations. We discuss those which are particularly relevant to employers.
In 2020, the government recognised that, while there had been many advances and worthwhile initiatives to address disparities and injustices in the UK, there was a clear need for a more systemic approach on the part of government, informed by a coherent overall analysis and philosophy. In view of this, the Prime Minister established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, comprising 10 panel members drawn from a variety of fields, from education and economics to medicine and policing, and all but one of the members were from ethnic minority backgrounds. The Commission’s made 24 recommendations to address ethnic and racial disparities and inequalities.
The government has responded to the Commission’s recommendations by setting out the following measures:
Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting on a voluntary basis
It was decided that mandatory reporting was not appropriate for all employers and the government wanted to avoid imposing new reporting burdens on businesses seeking to recover from the effects of the pandemic. However, despite being on a voluntary basis, those organisations which choose to report ethnicity pay gap data must publish an accompanying diagnosis and action plan, setting out the reasons for any pay disparities and what tangible measures the organisation will take to address these. Official guidance for employers on voluntary ethnicity pay gap reporting is expected by summer 2022.
Regulation of artificial intelligence technology
The government will develop a national position on governing and regulating artificial intelligence, including how to combat racial bias in algorithmic decision making. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) will advise on necessary safeguards and issue long-awaited guidance on how to implement non-discriminatory processes.
Changing the language around ethnic minorities
The government is changing its language around ethnic minorities and employers will likely be expected to follow suit. The term “BAME”, which stands for “Black, Asian and minority ethnic”, will no longer be used, as it is more productive to consider disparities and outcomes for specific ethnic groups, rather than grouping different ethnic minorities together. Where it is considered absolutely necessary to draw a binary distinction between ethnic minorities and the ethnic majority, the government will use the term, “people from ethnic minority backgrounds”. We are encouraged not to use terms like, “white privilege”, which are viewed as unhelpful, stigmatising and potentially divisive.
Greater enforcement action, new resources, and guidance on positive action
Additionally, the EHRC will have greater enforcement action to challenge race discrimination (with additional funding). A new “Inclusion at Work” panel will be created by spring 2023, comprising academics and practitioners, to develop and disseminate effective resources and oversee a programme of research and workplace trials. The Government Equalities Office will also issue new guidance on positive action by December 2022.