Friday 3 July 2020 8:52 am

Equality is a business imperative, so let's close the ethnicity pay gap

Tulsi Naidu is chief executive of Zurich UK

I am often asked how business leaders decide who is the best candidate for a team or an organisation. 

Of course, there’s no one reason or answer. It’s about understanding the relevance of skills you need and the context of the role you are hiring for. You might be looking to create energy and pace and drive operational improvement, for instance. Or you might be looking for someone who has the ability to handle complexity and ambiguity, because essentially the problem is a strategic one. Equally, you may be looking for a mix. 

What isn’t relevant is a candidate’s gender, appearance or social background.

Read more: Netflix to spend $100m on racial equality initiatives

Yet, just as there is a gender pay gap, there is an ethnicity pay gap. And just as businesses have been working harder to address the gender pay gap, we all need to do more to tackle inequality in pay and look to remove the barriers for career progression for ethnic minority employees.

At Zurich, we are committed to doing everything we can to understand how we can drive meaningful change. In recent years, we have introduced various initiatives to create a more inclusive work environment within our organisation. In 2018, together with Lloyd’s, we spearheaded the Inclusive Behaviours in Insurance pledge to change behaviours within the insurance industry, which has been signed by 130 UK insurers. We are also the only UK insurer — and one of the very few UK-based financial companies — to voluntarily publish ethnicity pay gap data. 

But we know this isn’t enough and we have more work to do. 

Our 2020 pay data for ethnic minority employees shows that though the gap has narrowed by two percentage points compared to last year, the mean average hourly pay gap is still almost 10 per cent. While we fully support the calls from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for mandatory reporting on pay, we recognise that it is unlikely to be enough on its own to force the change that is needed. 

If businesses are to significantly narrow the pay gap, they don’t just need to measure the gap — they also need to understand and address the underlying prejudices that are preventing equality in the workplace.

We have listened to our employees from diverse and ethnic minority backgrounds to help inform our response. And we will continue to listen. For this reason, we have partnered with the equality research experts at the Behavioural Insights Team to analyse how Zurich pays, attracts, recruits and promotes ethnic minority staff. This study will lead to a series of interventions and an action plan that will be published this autumn. 

We took similar steps last year to tackle the gender pay gap and attract more women to senior roles. Tangible differences are already being made with female job applicants up by 25 per cent since.

Organisations will have their own initiatives to tackle race inequality in the workplace, but the business community has a collective responsibility to enforce widespread change, and for this, we need practical guidance. Employers need the tools and a clear framework – and we look forward to support from the government and EHRC to help us deliver.

Improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace is critical. It enables businesses to attract and retain the best talent, reduces risk, improves decision making and generates the best ideas for the benefit of all our customers. 

It is also, simply, the right thing to do. 

Read more: A pandemic is no excuse for the return of all-male boards

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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