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Data deficit hampering progression of ethnic minority and disabled staff in the workplace

Data deficit hampering progression of ethnic minority and disabled staff in the workplace
  • Just 3% of organisations measure their ethnicity or disability pay gaps
  • National equality body calls for mandatory reporting for organisations with over 250 employees

Ethnic minority and disabled people’s careers are at risk by a failure of employers to collect meaningful data on representation in the workforce, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned.

The national equality body is today calling for mandatory reporting on staff recruitment, retention and promotion by ethnicity and disability, as it publishes worrying research which shows that most employers fail to collect this data or do so inconsistently. It says that this means they are unable to remove the barriers to the progression and representation of disabled and ethnic minority staff in the workplace.

The research found that whilst a clear majority (77%) of employers say that ensuring workforce diversity is a priority for their organisation, less than half (44%) record or collect data on whether employees are disabled or not and only one-third (36%) record or collect data on employee ethnicity. Even fewer (23%) collect data on staff pay and progression that can be broken down by ethnicity and disabled and non-disabled staff. Only 3% of organisations actually analyse this data to explore differences in pay and progression between different ethnicities and disabled and non-disabled staff.

Just over half of employers say that they face barriers to collecting this data, including that it is too intrusive and onerous. The research also found that employers tend to use binary categories such as White/BAME and Disabled/non-disabled when reporting, which disguises vast differences between pay gaps for different ethnic minority groups or for people with different impairments. For example, Bangladeshi men born in the UK experience a 26% pay gap compared with White British men.

To overcome this data deficit, the EHRC aims to work with the Government and the Office for National Statistics and other organisations working in this area to support employers by providing practical guidance on how to sensitively and consistently collect, report on and use employee data on ethnicity and disability. The EHRC also says that it should be a legal requirement by April 2020 that employers with over 250 employees monitor and report on ethnicity and disability in recruitment, retention and progression and publish a narrative and action plan alongside their data explaining why pay gaps are present and what they will do to close it.

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We’ve seen how mandatory reporting has led to employers redoubling efforts to address their gender pay gaps. We need the same level of scrutiny and focused action on opportunities for disabled and ethnic minority staff in the workplace. By not identifying and taking action to tackle unfairness in recruitment, retention and progression, employers are putting the careers of their ethnic minority and disabled staff at a disadvantage.

Collecting meaningful data will give employers the insight they need to tackle the underlying causes of inequality and ensure that disabled people and those from ethnic minorities enjoy a working environment that allows them to reach their full potential. Our research has shown that first we need to support employers to collect and analyse data on staff ethnicity and disability and reassure employees about how their information will be used.”

The full report, which contains good practice and practical examples of effective employer action as well as further information on different disability and ethnicity pay gaps, is available on the EHRC’s website.

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