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Rebecca Wayman

The business minister is urging UK companies to increase workplace diversity

Margot James, business minister, has today (September 7) urged the UK’s largest companies to increase transparency over diversity in the workplace ahead of the first meeting of the new Business Diversity and Inclusion Group.

This comes a week after the government put forward proposals for listed companies to increase such diversity policies, targets and progress, as part of corporate government reforms.

The group was set up to increase such topics and build on the work of various government-backed reviews led by senior business leaders. Today’s meeting, chaired by Margot James, will seek to establish what information listed companies could disclose to help tackle barriers in the workplace.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, she commented: “Being open and transparent about the diversity of workforces is effective in bringing about cultural change - helping to remove barriers in the workplace from the shop floor to the boardroom.

“So I am calling on our largest companies to lead from the front and promote greater inclusion in their workplaces… I would like to acknowledge the hugely valuable role played by the late Dame Helen Alexander in the effective work on the gender issue. Her loss will be felt by all members of the group.”

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which sets high standards of governance for listed firms, will consider these proposals as part of a review of its code later in the year.

The CEO of FRC, Stephen Haddrill, said: “Diversity at all levels in organisations builds strong foundations for long-term success, in both the private and the public sector.

“Making use of talent, skills and experience all drives better corporate performance and a successful economy. Those businesses which reflect the diverse nature of the environment in which they and their stakeholders operate are the ones that employees, customers and stakeholders value.”

All reviews have set targets to improve diversity in the workplace including aiming for 33 per cent of FTSE 350 board positions to be filled by women by 2020, as well as all FTSE 350 firms to have at least one director from an ethnic minority.

In addition, all companies should have more than 50 employees to publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band.

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