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Last year we followed and reported on the developments of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (our previous briefings are available here (19 June), here (21 July), here (25 September) and here (18 November). 

In March, the Commission published its report and findings.

The Commission’s report has been mired in controversy since its publication, with criticism and concern about the report coming from many different sources, including UK Public Health experts criticising the report’s “shortcomings”, news that at least 20 stakeholders credited in the report had distanced themselves from its findings, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission apparently raising concerns in November before the report was published. In addition, a number of organisations have considered the report and produced detailed responses (such as this response from the charity SafeLives). 

The criticism of the report is varied and includes that the report has downplayed the impact of systemic racism. It found that Britain is not an institutionally racist country. In fact, the report praises the UK as being a “model for other white majority countries”. It states that the term “institutional racism” should be applied “only when deep seated racism can be proven on a systemic level, and not be used as a general catch all phrase for any microaggression.” The report also pushes for a focus on individuals and their communities helping themselves “through their own agency, rather than [waiting] for invisible external forces to assemble to do the job.”

In light of the concerns and controversy over the report, we suggest that organisations exercise caution if using the findings and information within the report. Some of the report’s twenty-four recommendations are helpful suggestions that employers could consider further (the recommendations can be read here in full), including for example:

  • recommendation 9: “investigate what causes existing ethnic pay disparities”
  • recommendation 16: “open up access to apprenticeships”
  • recommendation 18: “improve safety and support for children at risk”
  • recommendation 20: "making of modern Britain – teaching an inclusive curriculum"
  • recommendation 21: "create police workforces that represent the communities they serve"

This Commission was relevant to every member of our society and clearly there is much disappointment with the output. 

Separately, we have previously referenced other reviews into race in the workplace including:

  • Race in the workplace – the McGregor Smith review (see here for report and Government response). Published in February 2017 this review is a useful (toolkit style) resource. It reviews the data, makes a case for action and makes recommendations throughout the report with case studies from specific companies.

  • Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards: the Parker review (report here). The final report from this review was published in October 2017 and includes an examination of the FTSE 100 data, and examines the key business drivers for a more diverse board and makes a series of findings and recommendations. This review has a very useful “questions for directors” section, with eight key questions addressing ethnic diversity, with directors’ statutory duties under the UK Companies Act and UK Corporate Governance Code in mind. At Appendix B of this review, there is a very helpful “directors resource toolkit” and again, good use of case studies throughout the review.

We think these are useful resources for employers and to that end we have produced summary crib-sheets which can be found here of the output from these reviews. 

For further reading, please see: Increasing diversity in the workplace by our colleague Alice Cave and Black Lives Matter by Shehnal Amin.

If you require further information about anything covered in this blog, please contact Maria Strauss, Shehnal Amin or your usual contact at the firm on +44 (0)20 3375 7000.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, May 2021

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