Prime minister Theresa May announced the new Charter, developed with charity Business in the Community, which is aimed at committing businesses to drive the recruitment and career progression of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) employees.
KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PwC were some of the first signatories, alongside top 10 firm Mazars, Lloyds Banking, the NHS, the Civil Service, WPP and Standard Life Aberdeen.
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said she was “delighted” to be a signatory of the Charter, explaining it “commits businesses to a set of principles and actions designed to drive a step-change in the recruitment and progression of ethnic minority employees".
Meanwhile, Jason Lester, EY’s board-level sponsor for Race, said the firm was proud to be an early signatory as “diversity and inclusion is central to our business strategy. Recruiting and retaining people from all backgrounds that can offer different perspectives to our clients is a business imperative”.
The government also announced that it is launching a consultation into a possible introduction of mandatory reporting of ethnicity pay.
The consultation, which will be open until January next year, will determine whether companies should be forced to publish information of the pay gap for people different ethnic backgrounds, as currently the number of businesses voluntarily doing so “remains low”.
It will determine what information employers should publish to allow for “decisive action” to be taken and look at ways employers could collect the data without placing undue burdens on businesses.
While announcing the measures, May said, “Every employee deserves the opportunity to progress and fulfil their potential in their chosen field, regardless of which background they are from, but too often ethnic minority employees feel they’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to career progression.”
She noted that the consultation comes one year after publishing the Race Disparity Audit, which revealed significant disparities in the pay and progression of BAME employees compared to their white British counterparts.
“Our focus is now on making sure the UK’s organisations, boardrooms and senior management teams are truly reflective of the workplaces they manage, and the measures we are taking today will help employers identify the actions needed to create a fairer and more diverse workforce,” she added.
Hinton welcomed this consultation, but added that “far more needs to be done”.
“By recording and reporting BAME pay gaps, firms can begin to understand the reasons behind the gap, and take targeted action to address them. Reporting on ethnicity pay gaps may reveal harsh truths but that’s a real trigger for action.”
Melanie Richards, vice chair at KPMG, said, “We are proud that almost a quarter of our UK workforce are BAME and as a firm we are committed to ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities to progress and thrive in the workplace. In order to ensure this removing any barriers that may stand in the way of any group is key and robust data collection is the first step to identifying these.
“By publishing firm wide diversity targets across four key areas, including BAME, we are publicly holding ourselves to account underlining our serious commitment to diversity across the board.”
Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, saidm “I am proud that Deloitte is signing the Race at Work Charter as part of our ongoing commitment to a culture of inclusion.”
Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said that both the measures announced today were “encouraging”.
“We are heartened to see that the Government is taking race inequality seriously,” she said.
“By requiring employers to take responsibility for the diversity of their workforces, the government can ensure that people from ethnic minorities are not left behind in their careers.”