A short study by Ulster University into race equality legislation in Northern Ireland has indicated significant work needs to be carried out to give employers more confidence in dealing with the issue.
The research carried out for the first time on a small amount of Northern Ireland employers found that they overwhelmingly needed more support to raise awareness of racial bias, communicate the value of diversity and maintain a focus of equality.
Funded by Business in the Community NI and CRAIC NI, the research is also supported by the Department for the Economy’s Northern Ireland Higher Education Innovative Fund.
Of particular concern was the impact of English fluency on the ability of highly skilled migrant workers in low skilled positions, to maximise their contribution to the economy.
However, of the small number of employers assessed most were able to identify at least one action which they could implement immediately to improve race equality in their workplace.
In addition, employers who implemented a zero tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment reported success in producing a strong team environment and respectful work culture, even where there is no significant training on racial or other biases.
Ulster University’s Dr Lucy Michael said: “This research is an important first step in understanding how people, however they might be identified, can participate in the workplace as equals.
“Although a small cross section, the findings will now enable us to engage further with the private and public sector to gain even more insight into racial equality in the workplace and how we can help employers deal with any challenges they may face.
“Employers should take great comfort that such a highly skilled workforce is available locally but they are unsure of how to implement race equality in the workplace and support migrant workers. They are seeking guidance on how to best implement it with positive effect, but they are afraid of getting it wrong.
“The small cross section of employers we spoke with stated that they would welcome support and as such we have now developed a toolkit which we will develop further as we continue to engage with employers across Northern Ireland.”
Business in the Community NI’s Denise Cranston said: "Progressive employers have for some time been integrating equality and diversity initiatives into core business functions, such as organisational strategy and talent management programmes. But this research shows that they need to do more to achieve greater race and ethnic diversity. Business in the Community fully supports the recommendations in the report and would call upon all employers to commit to taking action to take full advantage of the opportunity that migrant and ethnic workers present. "
CRAICNI’s Maciek Bator said: “As someone who is from the Black, Minority Ethnic community, I am delighted to see this report being launched. It is very encouraging to see more and more local companies recognising business potential in the skills and experiences that migrant and ethnic workers are bringing to Northern Ireland. However, there is still space for improvement and a need for sharing good practice amongst employers. At CRAIC NI, we are determined to promote race equality. A practical knowledge of how to manage diversity in a workplace is key to success, Therefore we are taking the lead on developing the Employer’s Race Equality Works training pack available from November. It is the right time to make Racial Equality work for Northern Ireland.”
A full copy of the Race Equality Works for Northern Ireland report is available: