From education to employment

How the appointment of Rishi Sunak can have a positive impact on workplace diversity and inclusion in the UK​

sirsha haldar

After a couple of months, the Government will likely want to forget, the time that anyone of Asian heritage in the UK has waited for has finally come – we have a Prime Minister of Indian descent.

Whilst the UK has had women in the top role on several occasions, every Prime Minister since the Robert Walpole as the first, has been white. Until now.

Rishi Sunak’s background, as a first-generation Indian immigrant, is one many British Asians can relate to, and I’m hopeful that the representation in the county’s highest office will have a positive impact on workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the UK.

Electing a person of Indian origin to the highest office speaks volume of the progress the UK has made. Unfortunately, the data shows that corporate still have some distance to cover to be able to represent ethnic minorities in decision making roles. Despite ethnic minorities making up 14.4% of the UK population, only 1 in 16 top management positions are held by those from ethnic minorities. I see this as a big opportunity for UK businesses to untap further potential.

The need for a more balanced workforce

A two-year global pandemic, political instability in Eastern Europe and an energy crisis has caused significant disruption to the UK’s economy. As such, for businesses to be globally competitive, it has never been more important to nurture and utilise all of the talent available.

Whilst over three-quarters (78%) of white people are employed in the UK, this compares unfavourably to only two-thirds (66%) of people from ethnic minorities. Whilst Sunak’s appointment can never be the solution, perhaps it could be the catalyst needed to ensure that every person in the UK, regardless of their ethnicity, is finally able to fulfil their potential at work. This is an opportunity for businesses to ensure a more balanced workforce. The good news is that there is significant evidence that shows that inclusive organisations that attract and develop individuals from the widest pool of talent, consistently perform better.

Time for businesses to act

There is no doubt that workplace diversity is becoming increasingly important to staff. In fact, our recent People at Work 2022 research found that more than two-thirds (68%) of UK workers would consider looking for a job elsewhere if their employer didn’t have a DEI policy. Unfortunately, improvement has been slow. Only three-in-10 UK workers (30%) said they have noticed their employers make significant improvements in terms of DEI in the past three years. In fact, 15% thought that the issue had gotten even worse.

There is no doubt that employees increasingly want to work for organisations that take DEI seriously. Because of this, it is important that the issue remains at the top of the business agenda. After all, failure to do so could lead to a drain in talent to more forward-thinking organisations. Whether the driving force is moral or the bottom line, employers will put themselves at a competitive advantage by seeking out the best candidates from the widest talent pool.

Integrate DEI within the fabric of your organisation

It’s not just those inside the organisation who want a commitment to DEI, but those outside the organisation too. A recent global report found that the overwhelming majority (83%) of millennials feel that if a brand wasn’t aligned with their values they would look elsewhere.

It is important that organisations go beyond simply providing lip service. To truly show support, the focus on DEI must be integrated into the very fabric of an organisation from the boardroom to the shop floor. That said, there’s no time like the present to get started. The appointment of Rishi Sunak as the first UK Prime Minister from an ethnic minority is a great reminder to review and update existing policies, programs, and practices to align more closely with your and your staff’s ideals and values.

Widening the talent pool

I am proud to work for an organisation that takes DEI seriously. For 73 years, ADP has remained at the forefront of helping employers understand the complex compliance, financial, and strategic issues surrounding workforce management.

By Sirsha Haldar, General Manager of ADP UK, Ireland, & South Africa

Related Articles