The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and minority ethnic health workers has highlighted how vital inclusion is for worker safety and wellbeing. Inclusion is essential for a healthy speak up, listen up and follow up culture.

But there has been little research into the impact a person’s protected or other characteristics have on speaking up. The NGO commissioned research looking at people’s experiences of accessing their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian and whether ethnicity has an impact. The research was produced by brap – the equalities charity – and Roger Kline OBE. An accompanying report from the NGO provides additional data collated by the NGO and details our next steps in response to this research.

The research found that Black and minority ethnic respondents were six times more likely than White respondents to say that they were more likely to raise a concern with a Guardian of the same ethnicity as themselves.

Compared to their White colleagues, discrimination was far more likely to feature in issues experienced by Black and minority ethnic workers involved in the research. There was an assumption that a Black or minority ethnic Guardian would understand and take seriously issues around bias and discrimination, which was reflected in their preference to speak up to a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian of the same ethnicity. The research also noted that the perceptions of ethnic minority workers may be impacted by a range of factors, including the wider organisational culture and the support for Freedom to Speak Up Guardians from managers and leaders in their organisation.

Despite these reservations, the research found that Black and minority ethnic workers who did speak up had comparable experiences to White workers. Black and minority ethnic workers who had spoken up also reported that they thought Freedom to Speak Up Guardians had a good understanding of discrimination and bias, were empathetic and had good listening skills.

The research also found awareness among Freedom to Speak Up Guardians of the potential impact of characteristics, and details some examples of the work they were carrying out to improve the speaking up culture for all workers.

Read Difference Matters: the impact of ethnicity on speaking up by Roger Kline and Ghiyas Somra

Read Inclusive Freedom to Speak Up: appreciating how what we bring to the workplace impacts on speaking up by the National Guardian’s Office

Read the Press Release