Race discrimination in the workplace
Claims involving race discrimination at work are on the increase, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) reports that there were 3,641 employment tribunal cases brought by individual claimants for race discrimination in 2020, a 48% increase from the previous year. So far, in 2021, (figure from Sep 2021) there have been 1,734 cases of race discrimination brought to the employment tribunal.
This could be attributed to the rise of awareness of race discrimination and concerning treatment of ethnic minorities in workplaces over the pandemic where it was reported BAME individuals were more likely to become seriously ill from catching Covid 19.
So what employment laws are in place to protect employees? Head of Employment Dawn Gallie explains:
1)What rights do employees have against racial discrimination in the workplace?
Race is one of the Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Employees have the right not to be directly or indirectly discriminated against, harassed or victimised because of their race.
2)What protections are there from racial harassment in the workplace?
Again, workers have protection against harassment under the Equality Act. Harassment is conduct by a person which relates to race that has the purpose or effect of either violating the workers dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that worker. It is how the worker FEELS and the effect that the conduct has on them – rather than the person’s actual intentions.
3)What can an employee do if they feel they have been discriminated against because of their race?
The employee should raise the matter internally – informally first with their manager or with HR. If the matter is not resolved, they can raise a formal grievance under the employer’s grievance procedure. An employee is also able to bring a claim for discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. They can bring this claim whilst still employed.
4)What can someone do if they feel they have been discriminated against during the recruitment process because of their race?
Job applicants are protected in the same way as employees and employers should not discriminate when deciding who to offer employment to or in respect of the terms of that employment.
If someone is concerned as to why they have not been recruited, they can request feedback from the prospective employer. Under GDPR, an applicant can also make a subject access request for any filed/computer information held about them by the prospective employer which may show the reasons for them not being successful.
5)What advice would you give to employers to successfully create and maintain a non-discriminate workplace that all employees can feel comfortable and welcome in?
The starting point is an up to date Equal Opportunities Policy. Ensure it is communicated throughout the organisation and any breaches are dealt with swiftly and fairly. Make it clear that discrimination, of any type, will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action. Be consistent in your approach. Provide training on equality and promote an inclusive environment where members of staff are supported if they raise any issues and managers are trained to deal with any concerns or grievances as they might arise.