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Racial inequality and the pay gap

Published: Thursday 22nd November 2018


Coloured wooden figures standing on stack of coins from small to big stackA new study shows that there is still a distinct pay gap visible when it comes to wages and ethnicity. A pay audit found that London’s black and minority ethnic public employees, including transport, police and fire services, were paid up to 37% less than their white counterparts. In particular, the Metropolitan police force stood out with a 17% pay gap and a significant lack of black, Pakistani and Bengali staff at senior levels. Furthermore, ethnic minorities were found to make up just 6.4% of senior managers in NHS.

Pay discrimination based on ethnicity is happening

Statistics show that African and Asian workers have, on average, to send out twice as many CVs to get a job interview and are more likely to face disciplinary action and other barriers when it comes to career progression. This is happening despite efforts by companies and organisations to develop policies for change when it comes to ethnicity and the pay gap.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has spoken out about the pay gap saying much more much be done to prevent this form of discrimination. Some action has already been in the public sector, including anonymised recruitment, which removes names from applications, as well as unconscious bias training and the creation of a new diversity and inclusion management board. But Khan also urged the government to consider legislation to make ethnicity pay audits a legal requirement, as they are for gender pay – as a result, a consultation has already started.

The ethnicity pay gap isn’t a problem here. While Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black African immigrants are discriminated against in the UK when it comes to wages, figures from the US found that Hispanic workers have lower weekly median wages than white, black and Asian workers.

Multi ethnicity individuals both male and female jumping up in the air outdoors in a city centreThe gender pay gap is being tackled. Why not the ethnicity pay gap?

Clearly, getting companies to publish their pay gap statistics when it comes to race is a start. But what can be done to actively solve the issue?

What we do know is that while a gender pay gap still exists, a lot has already been to done to narrow the difference between what men and women get paid and it’s making a difference, so perhaps the same principles can be applied when it comes to pay discrimination based on ethnicity.

In July 2017, when the BBC became the focus of a gender pay gap scandal, it immediately began reviewing the pay of the highest paid male staff at the company. Six male presenters agreed to take pay cuts. The organisation is now reviewing the wages of female workers upwards. At the same time, the BBC is taking action on the race pay gap by banning all-white shortlists for jobs above a certain grade.

That demonstrates, at the very least, that companies do review their policies once they are forced to their figures regarding discrimination when it comes to wages. However, while the best organisations try to avoid bias, whether conscious or unconscious when setting of pay levels for staff, minorities still find themselves in lower paid roles with little opportunity for progression. This needs to be addressed through support for career development, as well as through performance evaluations.

Here at Zoek we believe that more should be done to tackle pay discrimination.

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