Black Lives Matter: Half UK ethnic minority staff say employers doing nothing or unaware of action

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
Protesters outside the US Embassy in London, as part of an anti-racism demonstration coinciding with the start of the trial of the four police officers charged with the murder of George Floyd in the US.
Anti-racism demonstrations in London after the death of George Floyd. Photo: PA

More than half of ethnic minority employees in Britain say their organisation has done nothing or they are unaware of any action in the wake of George Floyd’s death, according to a survey.

Many large companies hit the headlines with pledges to fight racism and improve diversity and inclusion policies after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died at the hands of white police officers in Minnesota in the US in May. Footage of his death sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests over racism and police brutality around the world.

But a poll of more than 3,000 workers in Britain by consultancy Accenture (ACN) suggests many organisations have made no such efforts — or failed to communicate them to all staff.

53% of ethnic minority employees said either that their employer had taken no concrete actions, or that they were unaware of any actions being taken.

READ MORE: UK unemployment rises at fastest pace since 2009 as redundancies hit record high

Fewer than one in seven reported employers making public statements in support of the protests or publishing ethnic diversity targets. One in 10 said a taskforce had been set up to tackle racial injustice in the workplace.

Many other ethnic minority staff were impressed by their employer’s responses, however. 41% said their organisation had responded in a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ way.

Employers scored better than their staff’s views on responses elsewhere, with only 28% praising UK business responses in general and only 25% praising both the government’s and wider society’s reaction.

A report by Accenture, which included the survey results, said: “This seems like a missed opportunity for employers to engage with their employees on what actions they should have taken to bring about real change.

“Unfortunately, few UK leaders are accustomed to talking publicly about race issues.”

WATCH: Top 25 companies for diversity and inclusion

The “Who we are is how we’ll grow” report highlighted another Accenture poll of senior executives last year, which found just 20% of UK leaders had ever spoken publicly about or campaigned for racial equality.

The latest survey included several other findings on workplace culture, including:

  • Just 16% of disabled employees reporting they felt completely included at work, down from 23% in a previous pre-virus poll.

  • Only 56% of workers from socially disadvantaged backgrounds said they felt well-supported by employers since the pandemic hit, versus a 75% rate for their colleagues.

  • Women with children said they were spending another two hours a day on childcare as a result of the pandemic.

  • 73% of respondents said workplace culture was important in helping them thrive, with female and younger employees the most likely to highlight its importance.

READ MORE: What is the McKenzie Delis Packer Review?

The online survey was carried out in August and September by Jigsaw Research, with quotas for age, gender, income, region and ethnicity to make it “broadly nationally representative,” according to Accenture.

The report called on employers to bring under-represented voices into decision-making, reject “outdated assumptions” about what it takes to do jobs, target interventions at employees vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact and consider the impact of restructuring on diversity.

“No-one has been left untouched by this crisis, but the impact has been particularly hard on individuals who already suffer when it comes to inclusion,” said Olly Benzecry, managing director of Accenture UK & Ireland.

WATCH: The inclusion evolution and the power of peer-to-peer learning and best practice