A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) [1] has highlighted problems that employers are experiencing with gathering data on BAME and disabled employees – issues that, if remedied, could lead to dramatic improvements in pay-gap reporting.

In its research, the EHRC found that:

  • less than half of UK employers (44%) record or collect data on whether employees are disabled or not;
  • only one third (36%) collect data on employee ethnicity;
  • even fewer (23%) gather data on staff pay and progression that can be broken down by ethnicity and disabled and non-disabled staff – and, perhaps the greatest concern of all…
  • only 3% of organisations actually analyse that data to explore differences in pay and progression between different ethnicities, and between disabled and non-disabled members of staff.

Turning to the factors that are contributing to those shortcomings, the EHRC notes that 51% of employers in their study reported barriers to collecting data on staff ethnicity, while 52% faced hurdles with collecting data on disability.

Those obstacles include:

  • a perception that the data collection is too intrusive;
  • staff are reluctant to share the relevant information, and
  • the collection process is “too onerous”.

A 13% contingent of the employers were convinced that no measures at all would overcome those barriers – but others had a far more constructive outlook. Some 58% suggested that they could develop ways of collecting the information more easily – for example, through an online form – while 48% said they could make it mandatory for staff to provide the details.

However, 70% favoured explaining to employees how the data would be used. With that in mind, in which ways could leaders approach their BAME and disabled staff to assure them that the data would be harnessed for helpful purposes?

The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “These findings indicate a lamentable approach to people data. And what a stark contrast they make to CIPD research from a few months ago, which showed that employers with a firm grip on people data are better equipped for strong commercial performance. I’m rather shocked by this overall picture – while HR departments may broadly have a handle on data when it comes to recruitment, it appears to drop off quite dramatically in areas such as promotion. But if there is no legal imperative to publish these types of data, it follows that there will be no internal imperative among employers to gather it.”

However, she explains, “I recommend that employers should gather the relevant data regardless, purely because it makes sense to do so. If you have particular ambitions for your BAME or disability targets, you need to know first of all where you’re starting from. And you need to ensure that the data is simple to collect, and that once it’s been collected, it’s used. You have to be absolutely transparent about why you’re gathering it. There’s nothing wrong with saying that your organisation’s performance in those areas could be improved, and that it needs to be more ambitious. So collecting the data will help you gauge your ambition: where are you now in relation to where you want to be?”

Cooper notes: “if you’re going to start using the information for other purposes – as we explored recently in our blog on staff surveillance – then you have to be very clear and honest about those, too. If it emerges later on that you have expanded upon those purposes without telling your staff that you have done so, that will lead to a breakdown of trust and all the negative consequences that go with it.”

She adds: “in terms of how you provide your staff with the ‘why’ behind your plans, phrases such as ‘delivering on ambition’ are so much more positive and inspiring than, say, ‘we’re doing it because we’re supposed to,’ or ‘we’ve got targets to meet,’ which are bound to get people’s backs up. If your explanation is couched in optimism and a desire to do better, that will really connect with your staff.”

For further thoughts on building trust, check out these learning resources from the Institute

Source ref: [1]

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