Fair representation of Black people in recruitment process

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2019 National Black Members' Conference
11 September 2018
Carried as Amended

In 2009, the Department for Work and Pensions embarked on an experiment to understand the scarcity of non white faces in top managerial post in UK’s organisations. 2,000 fake job applications were created in response to 1,000 real vacancies across multiple sectors, professions and pay grades. Similar CVs – one with a “traditional Anglo-Saxon” name and one with a name that appeared to come from a migrant community – were sent to employers.

This bold initiative was met with resistance from image conscious business leaders who labelled the experiment “unethical”.

“A waste of taxpayers’ cash” was the label given by Theresa May, who was the Conservative shadow minister for work and pensions at the time.

The results conclusively showed that applicants with white, British-sounding names were far more likely to be called to interview for a position than those whose names were of other heritage.

Nine years later, it perhaps comes as no surprise, that there continues to be a dramatic under-representation of Black people in Britain’s top managerial posts or positions of power. Research conducted last year by the Guardian and Operation Black Vote found just 3.5 percent non-white faces at the top of the UK’s leading 1,000 plus organisations, compared with 12.9 percent in the general population. The lack of representation is much worse along gender lines, as it found women occupied less than a quarter of the 3.5 percent.

In her independent review of race in the workplace, Baroness McGregor-Smith found that Black people are much more likely to be found as overqualified for their jobs than white colleagues, who frequently advance in promotion with ease. This shows that the credentials, experience or potential of those who identify as Black members is not necessarily lacking in abundance, but it is disturbingly lacking in support.

Conference is clear that many of our Black members continue to experience unfair representation in recruitment. Its not a glass ceiling keeping them down but a concrete one. There is also a lack of mentoring or career development. Black members who are able to develop their skills and are being rebuffed in the recruitment for managerial roles are given more responsibilities according to their skills but are still disproportionately paid.

Conference instructs the National Black Members Committee to:

1)Work with the bargaining unit to produce guidelines for regions and branches on how to negotiate inclusive and fairer recruitment and selection polices with employers;

2)Consider how to motivate public service employers to improve career progression for Black staff;

3)Approach UNISON’s Learning & Organising Services and discuss how best to support Black members to acquire the relevant skills to aspire for managerial positions.