UK businesses may be forced to reveal ethnicity pay gap

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up by Boris Johnson last summer, is expected to report within days. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

By Rajeev Syal

Boris Johnson’s race equality advisers are expected to suggest change after study of employment market

Companies could be ordered to disclose any pay gap between white employees and their minority ethnic colleagues under reforms supported by Boris Johnson’s race equality advisers.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up by the prime minister last summer, has been examining disparities in the employment market and is expected to report its findings to No 10 within days. Several sources said the commission is expected to urge the government to commit to making annual ethnicity pay reporting mandatory for larger firms.

It comes amid high expectations about the conclusions from the controversial commission, which were supposed to be released in December. One former race adviser to the government welcomed any introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting but warned that it is only the beginning of tackling discrimination at work.

Lord Woolley, the head of No 10’s race disparity unit until last July, said: “The ethnicity pay gap legislation is the lowest hanging fruit to acknowledge and tackle race discrimination in the workplace. While this is to be welcomed, we mustn’t forget that a more comprehensive Covid-19 race equality strategy is needed to cover wider aspects of systemic racism in the workplace, in health, and of course as yesterday’s Guardian report shows, in education. My deep concern is that the government seem more interested in an anti-woke, faux culture war agenda that seeks to pit poor white people against poor black people.”

Ministers previously have committed to making annual ethnicity pay reporting mandatory for companies that employ more than 250 people, mirroring the requirements for gender pay. But more than two years after it released a consultation on its plans, further developments have not materialised, and more than 130,000 people signed a petition last year calling on the government to make ethnicity pay reporting mandatory.

As anti-racist protests were held in numerous cities in June, Johnson pledged to establish the commission to investigate all aspects of racial inequality in the UK. Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was assigned to oversee the review, which the prime minister said would examine “all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”

The commission is led by former charity boss Tony Sewell, a colleague of Johnson during his time as London mayor who previously described evidence of institutional racism in the UK as “flimsy”. It was supposed to release a wide-ranging report by the end of last year examining areas including criminal justice, health and education.

On announcing the commission, Johnson was criticised for saying: “What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination.” The head of his policy unit, Munira Mirza, who has previously criticised the concept of structural racism, helped to recruit Sewell.

Pressure has increased on the government to expose the gap between white and minority ethnic employees. A survey conducted last year by PwC found that one in 10 firms were voluntarily publishing their ethnicity pay gap figures. One in three ethnic minority workers say they have been unfairly turned down for a job, compared with just one in five (19%) white workers, according to research released last week by the TUC.

Asked to respond by the Guardian, a UK government spokesperson said: “The report will be provided to the PM by the end of this month. The government will respond to the recommendations in due course.”

Source: The Guardian