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Civil Service

Diversity and inclusion – moving forward together

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Rob Neil head shot
Rob Neil. MOJ

Our time in the workplace is shared with every one of our colleagues. We are at our best when diversity is encouraged and all talent is included as part of a workforce that reflects those we serve.  

Yet, in the UK today, ethnic minorities are under-represented at every level of work. The latest census figures indicate that 13% of our population is from an ethnic minority background. However, only 1 in 16 (about 6%) top management positions are held by someone from an ethnic minority. While representation of ethnic minorities in the Civil Service overall has improved from 5.7% in 1998 to 10.1% in 2014, the proportion is only 4.1% of senior civil servants.

Largest survey

Business in the Community (BITC) has teamed up with YouGov to try to understand the deeper issues behind this under-representation by conducting the largest-ever Race at Work survey.

All employees, aged 16 and over, whatever their ethnic background, and currently in employment in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) can participate in this survey. It is completely confidential and closes on Sunday 13 September 2015.

The issues covered are:

  • What are ethnic minorities’ experiences of recruitment, retention and progression?
  • Is racial bias present in UK workplaces?
  • Where are the role models?
  • Are leadership opportunities equally available?
  • Are workplace cultures fit for purpose?

Your voice

This is your opportunity to add your voice to determine what happens next in our commitment to positive change and helping to create a fairer workplace for all. The results of the survey will help inform the Civil Service Talent Action Plan, which was refreshed in March 2015, as we look to remove the barriers to success for under-represented groups.

Outcomes from the Race at Work survey will:  

  • provide greater insight into how underlying cultures and processes may be contributing to the fact that ethnic minorities are under-represented at Senior Civil Service level
  • explore how and whether people of all ethnicities are given equal opportunity to use their initiative and skills; whether they get the support they need from their manager; and whether they feel they are a valued member of their team
  • offer recommendations for leaders and employers that will equip them to ensure their cultures and processes are equal, fair and inclusive of all ethnicities  

Richard Heaton, the Civil Service Race Champion and MoJ’s new Permanent Secretary, has lent his voice to calls for staff to share their views in the current survey.

As the Civil Service Race Champion I fully support this survey. It will present an opportunity for businesses, across all sectors, to get rich insights into the UK labour market, including the Civil Service.

I actively encourage everyone to take part in this survey. Business in the Community has agreed to share the data and survey analysis with the Civil Service. This could be very powerful.

The survey takes only around 10 minutes to complete. All views matter – so, make sure yours count, here:


This article was amended on Friday, 4 September 2015, to update figures for the representation of ethnic minorities among senior civil servants and across the Civil Service as a whole.

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  1. Comment by Mark Ifill posted on

    I will gladly complete the survey. But people need to be aware this is not just a Civil Service issue, there are industries out there with lower figures than the Civil Service and they have nothing in place to address this.

  2. Comment by Charly posted on

    Why just race, no mention of the increasing ageism in the workplace. How about a survey on that?

    • Replies to Charly>

      Comment by Blog team posted on

      Hi Charly, thanks for your comment on this.
      This blog was hopefully encouraging staff to take part in a UK-wide survey rather than a specifically Civil Service-based one. Whilst this one was on race we'd be equally encouraging for staff to take part in similar surveys that address other characteristics.

  3. Comment by Bill Phillips posted on

    The 1991 census showed ethnic minorities to be 5.5% and the 2001 census showed ethnic minorities to be 8.1%. So if the civil service managed 5.7% in 1998 that seems a fair proportion. The “improvement” claimed is simply a response to an increase in ethnic minorities in the UK.

    I agree with Martin Thompson that the low number of ethnic minorities in senior positions is due to them having served 20 or more years to get there, so the proportion reflects the proportion of ethnic minority staff being recruited over 20 years ago; and that was low because there were not many to recruit.

  4. Comment by Cliff posted on

    The only question not asked "Are Ethnic Minorities sick of questionnaires as nothing changes?"

  5. Comment by Rob posted on

    Wow Martin - are we really saying that nearly 20yrs is not long enough to see more than 4.1% of our SCS cadre occupied by our talented, gifted and high performing ethnic minority colleagues? I was rather hoping we would all be more ambitious than 4/100. Oh well, maybe I was wrong (?)

  6. Comment by Rob posted on

    Mmmmm, I'd like to think so too Terry and yet the overwhelming evidence; anecdotal, empirical and lived experience suggests that all sorts of 'other criterion' are taken into consideration when appointments are made. For example, are you familiar with 'micro-aggressions' or unconscious bias? Let's see if this Race at Work survey shines a brighter light!!!

  7. Comment by CJ posted on

    Do our bosses not deal with a meritocracy.. not basing assumptions about ability on skin colour ..... that's apartheid and not a good way to recruit and reward staff.

  8. Comment by Mark J posted on

    I tend to treat those around me as work colleagues, rather than focussing on ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc., but guess I'm just less biased than the social justice warriors, feminists and self-serving, diversity-industrialists.

  9. Comment by Terry posted on

    6% of top management positions are held by people of ethnic minority background. Surely people are assessed on their ability to do the job rather than their ethnicity.

  10. Comment by T Soutar posted on

    I am already a member of the YouGov Pannel, so when I write that the link link on to links, that link on to links ad infinutum etc, yet no YouGov survey - take notice. Access to the internet is limited and patchy (media etc) in our domain, time is limited and we have no printers in our facility; I was wanting and willing to complete the survey but unable to do so — that probably sums up why you'll have a poor response rate form within the domain.

    There has to be a simpler way to do this?

  11. Comment by Martin Thompson posted on

    Well, as the percentage of ethnic minitories has only increased signficantly since 1997 - there probably hasn't been time for them to reach the senior civil service positions.

  12. Comment by Florence Evans posted on


    Not normally a person who comments on issues but should we not define what an ethnic minority refers to. You refer to 13% of pop. are from an ethnic minority - can we have clear figures on the % for Civil Servants. Thanks

  13. Comment by Roger Maxwell posted on

    Use this address to get to the survey
    Do not use the link given above in the blog ("...make sure yours count, here."). That link has already been used by someone, and it won't work for a second participant.

  14. Comment by Vijay Vedantam posted on

    Good initiative...for leaders and employers that will equip them to ensure their cultures and processes are equal, fair and inclusive of all ethnicities ..

  15. Comment by Cherron posted on

    Excellent call to arms!