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7.3 Million UK Adults Have Experienced Discrimination At Work

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At a time when many organisations are looking to increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace, new data reveals that more than one in five (22%) people in the UK have faced discrimination in the workplace because of their identity – the equivalent of 7.3 million employees.

Investigating Intersectionality, a new report from global research experts Savanta, based on research amongst nearly 5,000 consumers across the US and Europe (UK, France, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands), reveals that the UK fares better than the five other countries surveyed. On average, 28 per cent of people felt they had experienced discrimination, with the most people affected in the US (33%) and Sweden (32%).

However, the picture looks much different within under-represented groups. In the UK, 45 per cent of people from a Black background, 41 per cent of people from an Asian background, and around a third (33%) of people who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community say they have experienced discrimination in the workplace, showing that under-represented groups have very different experiences.

Despite efforts from employers and the Government, more than two in five (42%) UK employees agree that there are inequalities in pay and promotion within their organisation. While this is slightly lower than the average across all countries (45%), those who are most likely to be negatively affected by inequalities are more likely to agree that pay is unfair. People from a Black background are also more than twice as likely as the UK average (58% versus 24%) to agree that they have been passed over for a promotion.

With nearly a quarter (24%) of UK employees reporting that they have left a role or are considering doing so in the near future because they do not feel comfortable expressing their views, employers could be at risk of losing some of their best talents at a time when the hiring market is tight and salaries are soaring.

As a result, many UK employers are pulling out all the stops to make their companies more inclusive spaces to work. Their commitment goes above and beyond the average of all the countries surveyed, with 45 per cent of employees reporting that the company they work for have a DE&I task force or team (versus a 38% average), and 50 per cent say that their company has provided workplace training in the past year (versus a 42% average). 

In positive news for employers, it seems that their efforts may actually be having an impact. 84 per cent of people in the UK whose employer has a DE&I task force say it has been effective at implementing change, while 70 per cent agree that DE&I training offered has been effective.

Aside from these more tangible initiatives, employers in the UK are taking action to raise awareness of key issues affecting different groups and communities. Half (51%) of UK employees say their employer addresses important social issues as they arise, while 47 per cent say they validate all gender identities and 62 per cent agree that their employer creates an environment where all religious beliefs and identities are respected.

Sadia Corey, VP – Client Development at Savanta, said:“It’s worrying to learn that such a high number of employees have felt discriminated against in their place of work – with many under-represented groups are having similar experiences. While much discrimination comes as a result of unconscious bias amongst workers, managers and company policy, there is clearly more to be done to ensure that the workplace is a safe space for everyone.

“The good news is that there looks to be some progress amongst UK employers. Employees recognise that most employers working hard to resolve these issues, and while there is still work to do, senior leaders should be relieved that their DE&I initiatives are starting to make a difference.“

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