Challenging Unconscious Bias: Will the UK Adopt Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting?

New research, published in January 2019, into the levels of discrimination faced by ethnic minority applicants in Britain revealed some startling figures, indicating that, despite significant advances in discrimination legislation, levels of discrimination remain unchanged since the 1960s. The study from the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford found, for instance, that British applicants who were black or of South Asian origin needed to send 80% more applications compared to white applicants to get a positive response from employers. You can read the research in full here.

Employers in the UK should be aware that job applicants are protected from discrimination and victimisation under the Equality Act 2010. The law prohibits discrimination both in relation to choices of who to offer employment, and in relation to the way that the recruitment process is formulated. As this research shows, however, legislation alone hasn’t solved the issue.

Employers that are concerned about a lack of diversity in their organisation – and don’t forget, diversity has been shown time and again to improve business performance – should think creatively about what they can do. One option employers increasingly turn to is the use of blind CVs or similar methods, which remove identifying attributes such as names from applications to ensure the effect of unconscious bias in recruitment is mitigated.

The UK government is currently exploring whether it should expand the existing gender pay gap reporting regime to include the collection of data on employers’ ethnicity pay gaps. Ethnicity pay gap reporting was part of the Conservative Party’s platform in the 2017 election, and the government Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee recommended last year that ethnicity pay gap reporting be implemented. Government consultation on this issue closed in January, and the government’s response is pending. It seems likely that an ethnicity pay gay reporting requirement will make its way into law in some form. At this stage, we cannot say how extensive those reporting obligations will be, though it is likely that, as with gender pay gap reporting, only employers with 250 or more employees would be required to publish data. Employers in the UK should keep an eye on the progress of this pay gap reporting proposal – though given the continuing uncertainty over Brexit, it may be some time before the government is able to return its attention to this issue.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.