Department for Business & Trade
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New report seeks to end ineffective business EDI practices

The independent Inclusion at Work Panel has today published a report on the state of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) business practices in the UK.

  • Expert panel sets out how employers can move beyond ineffective diversity and inclusion practices
  • New research finds employers aren’t properly equipped to implement EDI policies that are based on evidence, and are resorting to ineffective, polarising practices
  • Review of the latest evidence finds high workplace spending on EDI initiatives but poor results and low understanding of what works, and doesn’t

Appointed by the Business and Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, and composed of leaders in the private and public sector, and advised by a leading Harvard academic, the Panel has reviewed the latest evidence of how employers are making decisions about diversity and inclusion policies and practices. 

The report found many employers want to ‘do the right thing’ but are implementing EDI initiatives without an evidence base, and many don’t know the impact these initiatives are having or whether they represent value for money. In a growing number of cases, particularly relating to positive discrimination and protected beliefs, the report finds that EDI interventions are proving to be counterproductive or even unlawful.

Business and Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, said:

“Discussions around diversity and inclusion at work are often bogged down by performative gestures. This government wants to ensure employers are doing EDI in a way that doesn’t undermine meritocracy and aligns with our equality laws.

“This report by the Inclusion at Work Panel is a powerful new tool for organisations. It lays out the evidence for good and bad EDI practice and can empower employers to make fairer, more effective EDI decisions that represent proper value for money.

“I sincerely hope that businesses will take time to read this report so that it becomes an important step in helping them achieve more inclusive and productive workplaces.”

The report found that employers face barriers such as a lack of accessible data on EDI interventions that work and polarised EDI debates. It also found many employers are not using data to make EDI decisions and are misapplying equalities legislation. 

The report advocates for employers to make better use of evidence and data when making EDI decisions to increase fairness and opportunity and avoid EDI initiatives which alienate certain groups, cause division, and have no impact.

In order to continue to lead on the global stage, it is imperative that British business capitalises on the very best of British talent, wherever that talent is to be found. 

Businesses routinely express the desire to source, recruit, retain and promote the very best talent whilst also calling for the evidence-backed ‘how’ to make this work in real, practical terms.

Chair of the Panel Pamela Dow, COO of Civic Future, said:

“It has been a privilege to work with such expert colleagues, united in the goal of fairness and belonging in the workplace. Our aim was to support leaders in all sectors to spend time and money well.

“The insights from our wide discussions show how we can build a useful evidence base, track data, improve confidence and trust, and reduce burdens, for organisations across the UK.”

LinkedIn data from 2020 found that the UK employs almost twice as many EDI workers as any other country; a CIPD survey from 2022 found only 25% of employers said they consult data before new inclusion and diversity activity is planned, and 25% said most of their EDI work is reactive - citing social and political events.

The review recommends that the Government can best support organisations by providing the tools to assess the strength of evidence and data on what works. This allows leaders and managers to choose practices with proven impact, and stop spending time and money on nugatory or counter-productive initiatives. The review also recommends that the Government can also help employers better understand their legal duties in light of recent rulings.

The Government is considering introducing a presumption against external EDI spending and increasing ministerial scrutiny of EDI spending, whilst streamlining EDI training and HR processes, with a view to getting value for the taxpayer. The Government notes this report and will draw on relevant findings as part of our own review.

Notes:

The report can be found here

The purpose of this report is to empower organisations to put evidence at the heart of   decisions around EDI. It calls on organisations to be able to demonstrate through data that their EDI policies and practises genuinely increase diversity of thought and experience, boost opportunity and belonging, and represent value for money.  

The review has drawn on academic research, surveys of business, and case studies of good and bad EDI practice.

Drawing together their review of the latest evidence and data, the Panel has developed a framework for employers, with five criteria for success:

  • Gathering evidence systematically and comprehensively
  • Reviewing interventions and processes regularly
  • Putting evidence into practice
  • Widening diversity of thought and experience
  • Restoring the importance of clear performance standards, high quality vocational training, and excellent management 

Panellists

  • Pamela Dow (Chair), COO of Civic Future
  • Barry Ginley, CEO of Tamstone Consulting, specialists in disability and inclusion
  • Ama Ocansey, UK Head of D&I for BNP Paribas
  • Ashley Ramrachia, Founder and CEO of Academy
  • Emer Timmons OBE, Co-Chair of the ‘Leaders As Change Agents’
  • Nick Walker, Programme Director for Government Skills & Curriculum Unit
  • Marcus Whyte, Founder of Zyna Search
  • Denis Woulfe MBE, Co-Chair of the ‘Leaders As Change Agents’

Advisor to the Panel 

  • Professor Iris Bohnet, Business and Government Professor at Harvard Kennedy School

Matthew Percival, CBI Future of Work & Skills Director, said:

“Businesses invest in diversity & inclusion because they recognise its potential to support company performance and growth. They want their investment to have the biggest possible positive impact, so will welcome the prospect of an improved evidence base that could help them make informed choices.”

The Inclusion at Work Panel was a commitment in the landmark Inclusive Britain Action Plan. The milestone cross-government strategy - spearheaded by the Minister for Women and Equalities - set out 74 steps government would take to tackle unjust disparities, promote equality of opportunity and encourage aspiration.

Last April, Kemi Badenoch announced we had completed 32 of the actions - including publishing the first ever guidance to help employers measure ethnicity pay gaps in the workforce in a rigorous way - and the final progress update report on the remaining actions will be published in the Spring.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-business-and-trade

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-report-seeks-to-end-ineffective-business-edi-practices

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