Last month Baroness McGregor-Smith published her review on race in the workplace, focusing on the issues affecting black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the workplace. In all, the review made some 26 recommendations and estimated that the UK economy could benefit from a £24bn a year boost if BME talent was fully utilised.

The government has now responded and the Business Minister has written to the chief executives of all FTSE 350 companies calling on them to take up key recommendations from the review including:

  • Publishing a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay.
  • Setting aspirational targets.
  • Nominating a board member to deliver on those targets.

For now, the government has indicated that it does not favour legislation requiring employers to publish the suggested data and has instead opted for a business-led, voluntary approach. However, it has also said that it will monitor progress and stand ready to act if sufficient progress is not delivered. And indeed, that’s what happened with the gender pay reporting obligations which are now mandatory.

Companies should take this opportunity to review their policies on diversity and inclusion and critically assess what steps they are taking to embed those policies within their culture and to address unconscious bias and other barriers to BME participation and progress within their workplace.