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Employment

Tory MP on Women and Equalities Committee calls ethnicity pay gap ‘meaningless’

Campaigners have criticised the comments by Philip Davies, who also asked: “Why are we so obsessed with this thing about white people versus non-white people?”.

A Tory MP labelled ethnicity pay gap reporting “meaningless” during a Women and Equalities Committee session held amid calls to make publishing the figures mandatory for large firms.

Shipley MP Philip Davies grilled each representative from the organisations giving evidence on their own ethnicity pay gap, before concluding “meaningless pay gap figures don’t actually tell you anything.”

The committee met days after the #EthnicityPayGap Campaign’s ethnicity pay gap day. The campaign wants all companies with 250 employees or more to publish their ethnicity pay gap data, in addition to their gender pay gap

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Campaign founder Dianne Greyson told The Big Issue that Davies should apologise for his comments.

“It might be meaningless to him but not for Black, Asian and other ethnicity minorities who have lost out on tens of thousands of pounds by discriminative practices,” she added.  

Davies, who is a campaigner for men’s rights, was elected on to the Women and Equalities Committee in 2016 after he played a key role in securing the first International Men’s Day debate in parliament.

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“Why are we so obsessed with this thing about white people versus non-white people?” Davies asked during the committee, before reciting Office for National Statistics figures regarding disparities among a range of ethnicities.

“These general figures, they’re meaningless aren’t they, because they don’t actually tell you about all the very complicated differences there are within different ethnicities, it’s literally just a very basic, pointless, white versus non-white…” he added.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Business in the Community were all giving evidence to the committee in support of the campaign.

Wilf Sullivan, equality officer at the TUC, explained to Davies that measuring of the pay gap was not “an end in itself” but a tool to identify any disparities in workplaces.

After asking for ethnicity pay gap figures at each of the organisations present, Davies said: “Given that you’re leading the charge on all of these things and yet none of you are able to actually able to have a pay gap of your own, do you not think some people might say: ‘Do you not think you need to get your own houses in order first,’ before you start going round telling every other organisation in the country what they should be doing?”

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Sullivan replied: “We are, that’s the point. That’s the point of doing ethnicity pay gap reporting and publishing it. At the TUC it’s resulted in us looking again at our recruitment procedures.

“There’s been a big improvement in recruitment in middle and upper ranks of staff at the TUC as well as that we’re doing an inclusion programme in relation to trying to change workplace culture. None of that would have happened if the evidence wasn’t there to suggest we had a problem.” The ethnicity pay gap at the TUC is 10.13 per cent.

A recent study from networking group People Like Us and Censuswide found employees from Black, Asian, mixed-race and minority ethnic backgrounds earn 16 per cent less compared to their white peers. 

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Business in the Community’s race director Sandra Kerr was taken to task by Davies for not knowing the ethnicity pay gap at the organisation. He told her that “white men at Business in the Community are paid 21 per cent more than Black men.”

Kerr replied that the pay gap is due to an underrepresentation of men working at BitC, adding: “My not knowing the BitC pay gap… is not a reason to throw this out, as what’s the point in this debate at all?”

After the meeting, Kerr told The Big Issue: “We’ve always been honest that ethnicity pay gap reporting is not a silver bullet, but it is a step in the right direction to ensure that employers are aware of the issues in their organisations.”

She added: “Mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting is needed to ensure that every employer is accountable and working to help create a fairer, more inclusive workforce.”

The TUC has also called for mandatory disability pay gap reporting as new research finds disabled workers are now paid 16.5 per cent less on average each year than non-disabled workers.

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