Amid the economic turmoil and concerns about resurging coronavirus infection rates, this past Friday’s International Equal Pay Day came and went with little fanfare.

It followed the Government’s decision in March, during the onset of the pandemic, to suspend mandatory gender pay gap reporting. The move was criticised as a massive step backwards during a crisis that some say will have a disproportionate impact on the livelihoods of women.

Before the global pandemic put hundreds of thousands out of work, women in the UK made 17.3 per cent less than men, according to the Office for National Statistics. What is not known is the historical pay disparity between workers of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) descent and their white colleagues, as there are no pay gap reporting requirements on this front.

It’s a stark illustration of what Herman Brodie, an expert in behavioural science and founder of economics consultancy Prospecta, describes as a wall of silence around the gritty reality of discrimination in the workplace.

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“There is still such a long way to go,” said Mr Brodie, an ambassador for the Diversity Project who spoke earlier this month as part of the EICC Live series.

“A huge swathe of the population is genuinely shocked to hear about the horrible experiences of black people in this country, but that is because no one is talking about it. We need to get the conversation going so everybody understands the problem.”

Last week, Shadow Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova took aim at the Conservative government for its lack of action on mandating ethnicity pay gap reporting, one of 26 recommendations in the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review. None of the recommendations from that review, which found that bias affects BAME people at every career stage, have yet been implemented.

Amid debate about the impact of gender reporting in reducing pay gaps, there is similar disagreement as to whether forcing company disclosure on ethnic pay levels would have the desired effect.

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“I thoroughly endorse the idea,” Mr Brodie said. “Unless you can measure something, you cannot possibly address the problem.

“I am also much in favour of targets. In my industry, we put targets on our investment performance – that’s how you get everyone motivated, by understanding what the goal is. Why not have targets on gender or racial equality?”

Based in Birmingham, Mr Brodie is a member of the board at Borders-based Ceannas, an international leadership consultancy headed by Don Ledingham. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum earlier this year, weekly online “coffee morning” conversations led the Ceannas team to set up its own support programme for aspiring young leaders from the BAME community.

“The challenge for every company is: ‘What are you going to do?’. Are you going to just wring your hands, or will you actively do something to address these issues? This is how we felt we could make a contribution,” Mr Ledingham said.

The move by Ceannas came as a separate report, Race at Work, was issued at the end of August by Business in the Community, part of the Prince’s Responsible Business Network.

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In what it claims is the largest survey ever carried out on race in the UK workplace, Business in the Community found that 74% of black employees want to progress in their careers, versus only 42% of their white colleagues. But a third of blacks felt their ethnicity would be a barrier to their next career move, versus only 1% of whites.

The charity said its own research indicated that only 11% of companies are capturing their ethnicity pay gap data, and of those, only half are reporting on it voluntarily. The lack of consistent data was said to the “crippling change”.

“In a year that has seen the normal rules of business and government thrown out of the window and shown so clearly the full impact of race discrimination on black people’s lives and livelihoods, it is inconceivable that the Government will not meet its 2018 promise,” said Sandra Kerr, race director at Business in the Community.

“The issue goes beyond politics. Covid-19 has shown me that, when they work in partnership, the Government and the private sector can achieve great things.”