Last week the Government responded to last year’s report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities with a 74 point action plan (“Inclusive Britain”).
The actions are grouped under four main themes: Build Trust; Promote Fairness; Create Agency and Achieve Inclusivity. What has been promised is far-reaching, extending to policing, health and education and well as addressing some important aspects of employment policy.
Four timed actions are likely to be of particular significance for employers:
Summer 2022: The Commission came down in favour of voluntary ethnicity reporting last year, so it is no surprise that the Government has no plans to make this reporting compulsory. It has however promised new guidance by the end of the summer, which will include case studies of those companies which are already reporting, and “will give employers the tools to understand and tackle pay gaps within their organisations and build trust with employees”. The Government states that once employers are equipped with a “trustworthy, consistent standard for reporting” it will expect them “to take meaningful action to identify and then tackle the causes of disparate pay”.
December 2022: The Government has promised new guidance on positive action by the end of this month. Although positive action is generally prohibited under UK anti-discrimination law, the Government believes clearer guidance on the limited circumstances in which it is permitted will encourage employers to make more use of the exemptions which are available.
Spring 2023: This is the deadline the Government has set for the launch of an “Inclusion at Work Panel”. Its members will comprise academics and practitioners in business and its remit will be to “develop and disseminate effective resources to help employers drive fairness across organisations.”
Autumn 2023: By this time the Government plans to have established an “Inclusion Confident Scheme”, which will provide “an evidenced framework for improving race equality and progression in the workplace”. It will build on work to be done by the Inclusion and Work Panel, and the Government envisages it will operate in a similar way to the Disability Confident Scheme, addressing (though not being limited to) issues related to ethnicity and race.
None of these actions will impose new legal requirements on employers, but will instead build on the pressure that is already being exerted on employers (by employees, regulators and other stakeholders) to make concrete progress on improving inclusion in the workplace.
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