by Jennifer Cannon
Published: 16 May 2023
Last month, the UK Government published an update on its progress against the Inclusive Britain Action Plan, which aims to tackle racial disparities in Britain. At the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), we welcome this continued effort to promote equality for ethnic minorities.
The strategy and actions match some of our own priorities. We welcome the Government’s focus on ethnicity pay reporting, and their recognition that it is important to gather detailed ethnicity data. Both actions will help to improve equality in the workplace. It was also positive to see our work on AI recognised, as part of wider plans to avoid discriminatory outcomes where AI is used.
But there is clearly much more to do to make Britain more equal. Voluntary reporting on gender pay gaps resulted in little change, which was why this needed to become mandatory. We therefore want a commitment from the Government to monitor the extent and impact of voluntary ethnicity pay reporting. If employers do not engage, that may need to become mandatory too. Both gender and ethnicity pay gap reporting should also be supported by a requirement on organisations to publish action plans to address the reasons behind any pay gaps they report.
In healthcare, the Government’s Major Conditions Strategy aims to address health disparities. We welcome this. But we think it could do more if it explicitly considers health inequalities between protected characteristic groups, and how these will be addressed. The Women and Equalities Committee report on racial disparities in maternal healthcare revealed unacceptable inequalities. We continue to make recommendations to government and parliament on how these might be addressed, such as to reduce the disproportionate detention of ethnic minorities under the Mental Health Act.
There are also serious issues with the treatment of ethnic minorities by uniformed services such as the Metropolitan Police Service, as highlighted by Baroness Casey’s Review, and the London Fire Brigade, as shown by its own Independent Culture Review. These problems are longstanding and complex, and relate to organisational culture and governance as well as to individual service failure. As such, we are working with regulators and others among uniformed services to find ways to address the underlying causes of these severe concerns.
The EHRC is committed to tackling racial inequality and discrimination across Britain. For 18 months, we have operated a Race Legal Support Fund to provide funding to support victims of race discrimination and help them to seek justice. Our fund has already supported people with claims of race discrimination against high street retailers, airlines, banks and pubs. We will now expand access to the fund to those who do not already have legal representation so we can extend its reach.
In all we do, we will continue to hold public services and all employers to account for any discriminatory behaviour. Through this wide-ranging ongoing work, we will complement the actions in Inclusive Britain to help eliminate race discrimination and inequality in Britain.