Making Work, work for all young people – what can employers do to support ethnically minoritised young people?

Mar 20, 2024

On the launch of our Discrimination and work: breaking down the barriers faced by ethnically minoritised young people report, Nishi Mayor, Director of Employer Engagement & Partnerships at Youth Futures Foundation, shares her insights on why employers should and can take action to ensure all young people gain and sustain good work.

Reading the research findings is a stark reminder of the reality of working life for ethnically minoritised young people – the simple truth is for many of them work just doesn’t work.

The majority of those who had experienced discrimination said they hadn’t reported it (as they felt it would make no difference) – and seven in ten young people who had faced discrimination planned to switch industries. This is unsurprising as the impact of experiencing racist banter/jokes (33%) is that they feel embarrassed, knocking their confidence and self-esteem.

Not only are we failing our young people, but we are failing to address some of the key issues faced by employers today, from skills gaps to low productivity and a tight labour market. Employers should do more to ensure that their organisations are open to all young people, the cost for not doing so is high on both sides.

This is why we are calling on all employers to take three simple steps to drive the change that the young people we spoke too believed would have the greatest impact on them and their peers. Specifically, we want to see employers.

  • Publicly report on ethnicity pay gaps as well as overall representation, providing data on pay, working hours, promotion, and representation in senior roles, and develop an action plan to address the gaps.
  • Ensure their early talent pipeline efforts are inclusive and equitable, with attracting ethnically minoritised young people to their business in mind. They should also look to offer quality opportunities to young ethnically minoritised talent coming into the workplace, including guaranteed work experience and apprenticeship opportunities.
  • Address discriminatory behaviour and build an inclusive culture through taking a zero-tolerance approach to racist remarks, jokes and ‘banter’ and non-inclusive behaviours by colleagues, clients, and customers. Establish a transparent ‘speak up’ culture and reporting practices, ensuring policies are understood and managers and employees are supported and trained to be accountable.

We do not want this report to simply be a moment to just recognise the challenges faced by ethnically minoritised young people but instead to be a moment when employers decide to actively work to address them. Appreciating that many employers will be thinking yes but how, we wanted to share four examples of the types of action that employers across sectors are delivering right now.

To learn more about the strategies outlined in our report and discover how you can lend your voice, download the full report here.

PwC: Leading by example

By publicly reporting on both ethnicity pay gaps as well as overall representation, employers can work transparently to develop an action plan to address gaps in pay, working hours and promotions. PwC is already leading the charge.

Since 2018, PwC have published their ethnicity pay and bonus gaps, driven by a responsibility to role model and promote inclusion and equality not only internally but also externally.

PwC’s approach has always been based on data analysis and insights. By using the personal data that their people voluntarily share with them in their statistical analysis and reporting they are able to pinpoint areas to take targeted action and inform their approach, whilst measuring the rate of change. The transparency and accountability that goes alongside this work is more important to PwC than ever, given the level of expectation of employers and business in helping to address the inequalities that exist across the UK. They continue to ensure that the data that they produce is as accurate and clear as possible and since 2021 have broken down their ethnicity pay and bonus gaps to show their Asian, Black, Chinese and Mixed Ethnicity gaps.

The most recent report launched in 2023 shows a reduction in a number of their pay gaps compared to 2021 and, where they have been monitoring trends over a longer term (gender and ethnicity). The positive trend reflects their commitment to delivering against a five-point action plan, focussed on inclusive culture, senior level accountability, fair work allocation, recruitment activity and progression coaching.  The five-point action plan sets targets which are published on their website alongside the annual report which charts progress against the targets.

Whilst PwC state they have work left to do, these actions continue to strengthen their talent pipeline and in 2023, of their internal admission to partnership, 42% were female and 19% from an ethnic minority background.

This is important because all their pay gaps are driven by under-representation of the relevant population in senior roles within the business. This is why they have set targets by grade for gender and ethnic background which are based on accelerating their progress over a 5-year period.

Very simply, delivering these targets is essential to closing their pay gaps.

Browne Jacobson: Fostering future talent

The legal profession has long struggled with diversity, particularly in senior roles. Browne Jacobson, however, is stepping up to the challenge.

Our latest report outlines key steps employers can take to address the challenges ethnically minoritised young people face head-on. The first of these is to prioritise opportunities for young people from ethnically minoritised backgrounds to take up good, guaranteed work experience placements, access support with job applications and interview skills and quality apprenticeships.  In March 2022, Browne Jacobson launched their inaugural REACH Mentoring Programme. With just 3% of Black lawyers working in UK law firms in the UK, REACH has been designed to empower aspiring Black lawyers by providing them with invaluable mentorship, work experience, and skills-building opportunities.

Thirteen mentees were paired with experienced lawyers from the REACH community, receiving six months of personalised mentoring, two weeks of paid work experience, and access to a series of masterclasses. By partnering with charities and educational institutions, Browne Jacobson ensured that the program reached talented and underrepresented students across the country. Proving an excellent opportunity for those involved to build their CV, grow their professional network, and gain real-world career insights and skills that can contribute to lifelong success.

The results speak for themselves: 54% of the original mentees were offered employment and the firm launched the second year of the program in March 2023 – with a focus on the retention and promotion of Black lawyers. Through initiatives like the REACH Mentoring Programme and partnering with charities, non-Russell Group universities and other educational institutions in communities that are supporting talented and underrepresented students Browne Jacobson is actively shaping a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.

A.F Blakemore: Championing inclusivity

A.F. Blakemore is one of the largest retail and wholesalers in the UK. The company therefore understands that a diverse and inclusive workplace is essential for success – and the organisation is proving its commitment to tackling non-inclusive workplace culture and behaviour head-on.

A.F. Blakemore’s success has been built upon a distinct culture. Focused on positive and friendly relations with colleagues, customers, and the communities they serve, the company takes a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment. Last year the organisation reviewed their Equality, Inclusion & Diversity (EID) and Dignity at Work policies, relaunching them with a series of initiatives to support their commitment to an inclusive and friendly workplace culture.

This included working in partnership with Business in the Community to develop a Race at Work training programme. This has since been rolled out to nearly 500 managers across the business with the purpose of exploring and breaking down barriers that block opportunities for ethnically diverse people. The company has also pledged to take positive action to eliminate any form of discrimination, ensuring equity across all aspects of employment. Race at Work listening groups, in addition to regular listening groups, have also run annually, allowing those in senior positions to hear from ethnically diverse colleagues on their lived experiences within the company, ensure they feel heard by the leadership team and ensure that any concerns are dealt with effectively.

A dedicated confidential bullying, harassment and discrimination reporting line has also been established, which includes a QR code on communications to ensure awareness and accessibility to all colleagues. Any incidents are thoroughly investigated and reported monthly at Board level to ensure transparency and awareness at leadership level, demonstrating commitment to zero tolerance.

A.F Blakemore also use the annual Colleague Engagement Survey ‘Your Voice’ to provide them with a measure of what colleagues think and feel in relation to equality, bullying and harassment. 91% of colleagues in the 2022 survey agreed or strongly agreed that ‘people of all backgrounds and identities are valued equally at A. F. Blakemore.’  

National Theatre: ‘Everyone is Welcome’

The Everyone is Welcome statement and surrounding policy were developed as part of the National Theatre’s continuing work around our culture and values and highlights the importance we place on dignity and respect and ensuring that our staff and visitors feel supported if they encounter discriminatory or unacceptable behaviour.

As an organisation we want our building to be somewhere that everyone feels safe to work in regardless of their age, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other personal and/or protected characteristics.

The statement makes clear that whilst everyone is welcome at the National Theatre, everyone must also treat our staff, and other visitors, with care, compassion, dignity and respect, and that discriminatory and intimidatory behaviour have no place here. The policy that goes alongside it makes clear that no member of staff needs to accept negative behaviour from a customer.

To support that, we have trained all customer facing staff to feel empowered to tackle any discriminatory behaviour they might experience, if they feel able to, or to walk away and report it to a manager if they feel unable to. Too often people working in the service industry, particularly young people, feel they have no choice but to accept negative behaviours, especially those that come in the form of micro aggressions, from customers. We are trying to change that message and help them feel able to stand up for themselves.

An important aspect of that is the ‘calling in’ method that we are using. This means that following an incident of unacceptable behaviour, we are explaining to customers how they have offended and what behaviour we would like to see in future so that we can try to bring them on this journey of change with us. It also means that when successful, the staff member can see that by speaking up they are able to positively impact the world, in a way that simply telling someone off and asking them to leave does not do.

As “calling in” takes time and energy, we are keen to ensure that those affected by discrimination do not feel burdened to do all the emotional labour. In situations which they do not want or feel able to tackle, they can simply walk away and report the behaviour to their manager. The hope is that this empowers them to feel in control of the situation and able to decide what they do and don’t want to deal with. Equally by having their managers follow up such situations for them, the hope is that we show that this organisation supports them, they are not alone, and they are safe within our walls.

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