Public Sector Leadership Summit on Race Equality in Employment: report

This report summarises the outcomes of the Public Sector Leadership Summit on Race Equality in Employment that was held by the Scottish Government in March 2021.

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee held an inquiry last year on race equality, employment and skills. It published its report on 15 November 2020 which came with a series of recommendations, detailed below, for public authorities to take forward to address race inequality in employment. Jamie Hepburn MSP, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, issued his response to the Committee on 23 December 2020.

1.1.2 Within his response, Mr Hepburn committed to hosting a public sector leadership summit on race equality in employment. The summit, held on 24 March 2021, brought together Ministers, public authority leaders and key stakeholders to support public authorities and sought from them a commitment to make an assessment of their organisation’s understanding of racism and the structural barriers that may exist; and to take forward the Committee’s recommendations.

1.1.3 Mr Hepburn further committed to writing to Chief Executives of public authorities in advance of the summit, asking specifically how they intended to take forward the recommendations and how the Scottish Government can best support with this. This letter was sent on 5 February 2021.

1.1.4 The responses received informed both the discussions and outcomes of the summit. The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) undertook a high level analysis of these responses to identify key themes and challenges within organisations. This analysis is provided on page 29. As at May 2021, there had been 90[1] responses received (40 public bodies, 23 councils and 27 educational institutions). We note that a national response has been provided on behalf of Health Boards.

1.2 Recommendations of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee

1.3 The Committee made the following recommendations for public authorities:

  • The Committee recommends those in public authority leadership positions undertake an assessment of their organisation’s understanding of racism and the structural barriers that may exist within their organisations. Public authorities should integrate their ambitions into their next strategic plan. Their strategic goal should be underpinned by specific outcomes and supported by timely monitoring. Public authorities should be transparent about their targets and their progress in delivering their outcomes.
  • The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s recruitment toolkit designed to support employers to better recruit more people from minority ethnic backgrounds and asks the Scottish Government when this will be available and how this will be publicised to public authorities. The Committee recommends public authorities should review their recruitment procedures and practice against the Scottish Government’s toolkit and make the necessary changes.
  • The Committee recommends that all public authorities subject to the Scottish specific Public Sector Equality Duty should, as a minimum, voluntarily record and publish their ethnicity pay gap and produce an action plan to deliver identified outcomes. This piece of work will help organisations to understand the reasons behind the gap and to take targeted action. By not doing so, the Committee believes not only is there a greater risk of reputational damage to the public authority but also the potential for loss of talent to other more progressive workplaces.
  • The Committee intends to send this report to every public authority it initially wrote to. The Committee asks each public authority to provide a commitment to the Committee to take a minimum of three new actions to address their organisation's specific issues along with associated timescales and reasons for those timescales. Public authorities must show strong leadership and demonstrate a dedication to addressing decades of damage. As Inclusion Scotland said, it is about “employer-ability”, not "employ-ability".

1.4 Summit Purpose

1.4.1 The Committee’s evidence sessions demonstrated that whilst some public sector leaders were ready to begin talking about and tackling institutional racism[2], others were strongly in denial about its existence. It was therefore felt that the summit would be a valuable forum in which to encourage positive engagement with the concept and the action needed to address it.

1.4.2 In light of the wide-ranging context above, to provide a strong foundation which draws all of this together, the summit focused on the first recommendation; reaching an understanding of institutional racism. The summit sought to emphasise that understanding and acknowledging institutional racism is a necessary first step, and it set the context for follow up engagement across the public sector to address the Committee’s other recommendations.

1.4.3 In order to accommodate the restrictions during COVID-19, and to facilitate interactive discussion, the summit focused on a smaller group of around 30 participants who could best represent the spectrum of public sector leaders across Scotland. Invitees were sourced to come with the knowledge to engage and cover the experience, practices and challenges across the range of organisations in their representative group; and to come with a mandate to commit to the overall aim and outcome of the summit for the group. Representative groups included Health, Local Government, Education, Justice and Delivery Bodies.

1.4.4 The substantive item of the event included the facilitated breakout sessions where representatives focussed on two discussion points: the reticence across the public sector to discuss institutional racism; and the practical solutions to existing barriers within organisations. The discussions primed questions for the expert panel.

1.4.5 The summit culminated in the unveiling of a joint commitment, which pledged public sector leaders and the Scottish Government to address the recommendations of the Committee; to embed the recommendations in the strategic objectives of organisations and in performance objectives of senior leaders; and to make the commitment public-facing by publishing on their websites and through social media. The summit placed an urgency on public sector leaders to honour the joint commitment, as a further step to address racial inequality in organisations.

1.4.6 The following write-up aims to summarise recurring themes from the event, including resources and practical approaches identified. It has also been shared with delegates and with public authorities and race equality stakeholders who did not attend the event, for sight and contribution as necessary.

1.5 Summit Recordings

1.5.1 The summit was recorded, with the exception of the breakout sessions, which are summarised below. Links to the recorded items of the event can be accessed here. This includes:

  • opening remarks from Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People;
  • reflections from Madhu Malhotra, Director for Equalities, Inclusion and Human Rights, Scottish Government;
  • reflections from David Wallace, CEO of Social Security Scotland; and
  • closing remarks from Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills.



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