Closing the ethnicity pay gap widened by COVID19

July 1, 2020 Javad Juma

The coronavirus pandemic has shocked the world and has highlighted economic disparities in the UK. Whilst certain jobs have been considered as key jobs – such as NHS staff, care workers, supermarket workers, police and journalists who have all been amazing during this crazy period – other jobs are at risk. According to the Independent, more than 6.5 million jobs could be lost due to coronavirus and lockdown. Just over 25% of the labour force has been severely hit, and some sectors harder than others, including housing, hospitality, aviation, food service, wholesale retail, automotive, transport and storage. There is tension as continuous economic instability may lead to a severe recession. With the potential economic crisis happening during the pandemic, we must be aware that ethnic groups will be impacted differently. Research shows that ethnic minorities are dying at a disproportional rate so it’s important to analyse this from an economic standpoint by focusing on pay gaps.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the ethnicity pay gap has always been relatively wide. Research in 2019 showed that ethnic minorities in the UK earn 10% less than their white counterparts. Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane claims that the pay has been rather consistent over the past 50 years. Ethnic discrimination and occupational segregation in the work force has led to minorities working in lower income jobs or being underpaid while working in highly skilled job roles. With the job sectors most affected during the pandemic being lower income jobs with a higher percentage of minorities, the pay gap has increased. Although there is limited research available to fully understand the impact that coronavirus has had on ethnicity pay gaps, it’s clear that prior to the pandemic the pay gap persistently remained, and the pandemic has inadvertently emphasised the inequality.

How can we lead this conversation and help our employees? What diversity policies can be created or initiated? How can we overcome this social crisis together?

A plan to increase participation of ethnic minorities across all parts of the labour market to foster the importance of diversity and inclusivity can directly shrink the ethnicity gap in every workplace. 


There are numerous ideas on how companies can make positive changes that will greatly reduce the gap. Companies should start making changes to their current structural bias and developing new structures that will minimize the possibility of a pay gap. During the process of recruiting, an inclusive recruitment experience for all candidates must be implemented. One way in which we have done this at Cornerstone is ensuring the language used in job descriptions appeals to a wider demographic. We have also made sure the recruitment workflow is inclusive by offering a seamless candidate experience with our ATS system, self-service meetings, email, online and video interviews.

Whilst recruiting is important in affecting diversity coming into the business, it’s just as important to make sure we continue the work once they are in the business. For example, promotion cycles with transparent career progression and a strong Talent Management system that allows your employees to design their own future through upskilling and reskilling.

A key measure that can be easily put in place and something we have done is mandatory training for management and leadership positions to understand conscious and unconscious bias in the workplace, and ultimately identifying it in themselves. The importance of diversity and representation when it comes to career progression must be promoted and supported using research data. A healthy work environment and culture creates a safe space where people feel confident to speak up and have those tough conversations with the hopes of arriving at a positive conclusion with future benefits.

It is important that organisations are willing to evolve to ensure changes in ethnicity pay gaps. Development and career paths need to be adapted to the needs of employees, making it dynamic, transparent, and easy to request we recommend using ‘Check-in’ as part of our Cornerstone offering – it’s awesome! There must also be a close analysis of trends in the employment and industry, within Cornerstone there is a module called Benchmark which enables our clients compare their data with anonymised data from competitors in the space.

In conclusion, our responsibility is to make sure our organisations is making changes to address pay gaps and diversity – this will lead to a stronger business.

About the Author

Javad Juma

Javad Juma is the Talent Acquisition Manager for EMEA and APJ and joined Cornerstone in 2012. He has been involved in recruiting for over 15 years (yes, he is quite old, despite his boyish good looks and charm!) and has spent time within Financial Services and telecoms sectors.

Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin More Content by Javad Juma
Previous Article

Next Article
3 top tips to boost wellbeing
3 top tips to boost wellbeing


Please fill out form to access content...

First Name
Last Name
Job Title
Company Size
Subscribe to all communications
Thank you!
Error - something went wrong!