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Bishop of Bristol expresses ‘shame’ at lack of ethnic-minority lay employees

29 October 2021

Sam Cavender

THE Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, has spoken of her “shame” at how few ethnic-minority employees her diocese has, and has urged both the Church of England and the Government to push ahead with mandatory reporting of racial disparities in pay.

Speaking during a debate in the House of Lords, Bishop Faull said that people from ethnic-minority backgrounds were too rarely hired by the diocese of Bristol, in view of their numbers in the region. When they were so employed, they too often worked in junior positions.

“I am acutely aware of both the imbalance in the number of UKME [UK minority ethnic] lay employees and their recruitment to largely junior roles in my organisation — it is totally different from the surrounding population, to my shame,” she said on Monday.

She backed calls, led by Lord Boateng (Labour) — who chairs the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission (News, 16 July) — to introduce a law compelling organisations to measure and publish the pay gap between white and ethnic-minority workers. Similar rules around had helped to drive progress on gender pay-gaps, she said.

“I know from my experience as the former Dean of York the significant positive impact gender pay-gap reporting had on the implementation of inclusion policies in an institution which had previously been overwhelmingly male.

“Careful attention to the gender pay-gap required us to focus continuously on developing opportunities for women, not least in our stoneyard, among carpenters and stonemasons, where we achieved parity.”

Work has been under way in the C of E for some time to increase the number of ethnic-minority clerics (Features, 4 October 2019). Ethnicity is self-reported, which is thought to affect the precision of the figures; but in 2016, only about 1.9 per cent were of ethnic-minority heritage.

The Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce, which paved the way for Lord Boateng’s longer-term commission, has called for more urgent action to address the lack of ethnic-minority bishops, deans, and archdeacons, including a requirement for at least one such individual to be shortlisted for every senior vacancy (News, 23 April).

In the Lords, Lord Boateng argued that ethnic-minority pay-gap reporting was not only “profoundly moral”, but also “intensely practical”. Evidence showed that businesses that attracted and raised up individuals from more diverse backgrounds consistently performed better.

Introducing this kind of pay-gap reporting was also supported by Lord Bilimoria, the first ethnic-minority president of the Confederation of British Industry, and Baroness Falkner, who chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission — which enforces gender pay-gap reporting. The Trades Union Congress is also in favour.

Lord Callanan, a junior minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said, however, that a previous consultation on the question had revealed significant practical challenges for businesses in implementing such reporting, including matters of statistical rigour, anonymity, and sample sizes.

“It is, in fact, a difficult challenge to develop a standard ethnicity pay-reporting system,” he said. “We will announce the way forward in due course, taking account of a range of reviews, including those of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and the CBI, all of which we are currently talking to about how best to support employers.”

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