The benefits of the Government's ethnicity pay-gap proposals are both moral and economic

It's popular to quip that - as a consequence of Brexit - "there is no domestic policy agenda" and it's right that we consistently look back at the commitment to wide-ranging social reforms the Prime Minister promised to correct society's "burning injustices".

What is measured gets addressed, argues Nicholas Dunn-McAfee
What is measured gets addressed, argues Nicholas Dunn-McAfee

The ethnicity pay gap proposals are something that disprove the former and could contribute to correcting some of the latter, if last week’s consultation is our lodestar.

It is not – to echo Adam Smith - from the benevolence of the senior account manager, the communications assistant, or the public affairs executive that we expect our PR and communications industry, but from their regard to their own self-interest.

'Workplace discrimination solutions need to extend beyond ethnic pay gap reporting' - PR industry leaders

As with all efforts aimed at improving diversity and inclusion, the main benefits for organisations are economic and moral.

Be clear: the cases are not mutually exclusive, nor are they in tension if we treat this as a long-term initiative rather than a short-term compliance exercise.

McKinsey’s ‘Diversity Matters’ revealed that organisations in the top quartile for diversity are more likely to outperform their non-diverse counterparts.

For example, ethnically diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to outperform.

Another report by the CBI, TUC, and EHRC - 'Talent Not Tokenism' - found that improving diversity helps companies understand their customers better.

Critically, improvements cannot be made in the workforce without monitoring: what is measured gets addressed.

Identify (consistently across the labour market) and tackle (judging efforts solely by their outcome, rather than their intentions or how "good" we think an organisation is).

If disparities cannot be meaningfully explained, they must be changed: but why now?

For some, the time will never be right to address complex and sensitive issues so directly. For others, the time is long overdue.

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, head of public affairs at the PRCA

For some, the time will never be right to address complex and sensitive issues so directly. For others, the time is long overdue. 

While 2017’s Race Disparity Audit serves as a form of precursor, the real driver behind this is the existing gender pay gap reporting requirements.

Not only do they provide a mirroring structure, they solidified the bonds between social justice and transparency and started a conversation that was only ever going to grow.

This must be framed by the fact that binary figures are inherently problematic and potentially divisive, and it cannot be said enough that different minority groups can (and do) face different issues in the workplace, and simply pooling all these individual employees can only be done if that nuance remains front and centre.

Similarly, this information cannot be considered in isolation because any demonstrable issue cannot be solved in isolation.

Statutory framework – the how and the what – importantly offers organisations looking to voluntarily disclose the structure, the benchmarks, and the support.

Looking back to the gender pay gap, the industry not only supported the transparency measure (especially younger employees), but a majority wanted a lower employee threshold to capture more organisations.

Many of the same arguments apply here, to another burning injustice.

Framed by the economic case, the moral case, timing, and the gender pay gap parallel, the PR and communications industry should back a nuanced approach to ethnicity pay reporting.

It needs saying over and over: you don’t know what you don’t know, this is simply the first step – it does not presuppose a problem at your organisation - but does inherently represent an investment in your practitioners so that you can comfortably say whether or not there is an unexplainable disparity and allows your take of measures going forward.

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee is head of public affairs at the PRCA

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