Published 14th September 2020
Here at Thrive, following our own self-reflection on what we and other HR professionals can be doing to tackle racism, we asked the Equality for Workers Union (who we are proud to work alongside) to prepare a guest blog on the black lives matter movement. Here, Sana Zaheer, talks about racial equality in the workplace, and why there is still a long way to go.
We can no longer be silent. Recent events following the death of George Floyd have brought numerous issues around racism to light. We can no longer just condemn violence. We must now actively engage in this long-standing war against racism in more ways than one; we need to listen and empathise with our minority ethnic groups and stop racial inequality.
One of the areas where we desperately need to address this change is in the workplace since it is, for most, where we spend most of our time. On average, a person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime which is why it is vital we strive for a healthy work environment. We must look beyond just having diversity in the workplace. Diversity alone is not good enough since it does not actually tackle the deep-rooted racism displayed by employers towards employees. In 2018, it was reported that there was a total of 3.2 million BAME employees in the UK, but they encountered many problems at work such as employment pay gap, qualifications pay gap, type of employment and abuse at work. This has a detrimental effect on the mental health of BAME employees, causing them to feel demotivated, stressed and anxious.
In the UK, there is a misconception that racism doesn’t exist. This is due to a contrast in racial inequality cases between the UK and USA. Though it is correct that the UK does not appear to engage in the same level of overt racism (forms of police brutality, hate crimes and use of racial slurs), institutionalized racism is still entrenched in the UK, and it affords white employees in the workplace with privilege and this causes a disparity between black and white people.
According to statistics, from 3.9 million managers, directors and senior officials in the UK, only 59,000 are black. The effects of racism faced by black employees have wide-ranging consequences. Two-thirds (62%) of black employees have reported that racism at the workplace impacted their mental health and stress and more than half (56%) went on to say racism negatively impacted their work. A significant proportion of both women and men from this percentage admitted that racial discrimination had caused them to leave a job.
Unions must now move past just condemning racism in the workplace and act as comrades who are prepared to do the work to make the change happen. It is not enough to ensure that employers have an equality and diversity policy. Unions must ensure that the policy is being actively implemented by staff who are giving frequent training and encouraging open and safe discussions about racial experiences. The goal is not only to encourage employers to close the gap between white employees and people of colour but to create equal opportunities for all employees and eliminate unconscious bias.
Race, racism and the inequalities which still prevail to date should not be uncomfortable topics to discuss in the workplace. Employers must be encouraged to start conversations about racism, be willing to listen to stories of employees, and challenge the behaviour, words or conduct of other people who refuse to do so.
Racism must no longer be seen as a taboo issue in the workplace. Without having a safe place to openly discuss and address the issue, we will not be able to get to the root of the problem, therefore, it is paramount employers recognize this and allow employees to speak up!
So, what should an employee do if they feel they are being racially discriminated against? We suggest that they raise a formal grievance; the employer should then conduct a full investigation and ensure that any perpetrators are educated and/or disciplined.
How can Thrive help your business be more inclusive and diverse?
We understand that for employers there is so much on the agenda that equality, wellbeing and inclusivity can be pushed to the bottom of the list. But we aim to ensure equality stays at the top of the agenda. We are proactive in our approach to D&I and encourage other businesses to be then same. As part of our outsourced HR services, we work with businesses to help your approach to a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about our HR services and how we can help you.
How can Thrive Help individuals?
Here at Thrive, we often assist claims of race discrimination. We can assist with a grievance and any appeal where any outcome is unsatisfactory. We can also assist an employee to escalate a claim to an Employment Tribunal; this can be done both whilst an employee remains employed, but also if an employee has been discriminatorily dismissed. Please email our team at @email@example.com.