Race discrimination remains an issue in many workplaces in the United Kingdom. Not only does it impact things like productivity and morale among employees, but it can have a significant impact on the lives of those being discriminated against. Recognising, addressing and eliminating race discrimination is therefore crucial to creating an inclusive work environment where employees feel valued, respected and safe.

When experiencing discrimination in the workplace, many employees are not aware of how to proceed with resolving the issue. ‘Race’ is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA), therefore when race discrimination occurs, employees have legal rights to make a claim and get the compensation they deserve.

Below our race discrimination team have put together some information to guide you through identifying, reporting and resolving race discrimination in the workplace.


Identifying Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Race discrimination involves treating someone unfairly because of their actual or perceived race. It also covers unfair treatment because of an association with someone else. The definition of ‘race’ in the EqA covers colour, nationality and ethnic or national origin, and discrimination can occur in several different ways.

Discriminatory behaviour will fall into different categories;

  • Direct Discrimination – Direct discrimination is the most obvious type of race discrimination in the workplace and it is when an employee is treated less favourably because of their race. A common example of direct race discrimination is a qualified candidate not getting a job because of their race or an experienced employee being denied a promotion because of their race.
  • Indirect Discrimination – This type of discrimination can be harder to identify, but it is still protected under the EqA. Indirect race discrimination happens when a policy, criterion or practice puts employees of a particular racial group or ethnic group at a disadvantage compared to other employees. For instance, requiring all employees to wear a uniform may disadvantage individuals whose cultural practices involve wearing certain pieces of clothing. If the policy is not objectively justifiable, it is discriminatory.
  • Harassment – Any unwanted conduct that is motivated by race can be considered race harassment in the eyes of employment law. Harassment includes racial slurs and offensive jokes or any other type of unwelcome behaviour that violates an employee’s dignity. To constitute harassment, the unwanted conduct will also create a hostile, offensive, intimidating, humiliating or degrading environment for the employee.
  • Victimisation – Victimisation happens when an employee is treated badly because they have complained about race discrimination in the past or supported someone else who has experienced discrimination at work. The EqA provides protection to anyone involved with an Employment Tribunal claim, such as someone providing evidence, who is experiencing unfavourable treatment in the workplace.

Reporting Race Discrimination in the Workplace

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work or you have witnessed race discrimination, it is crucial to report it correctly. It is beneficial to familiarise yourself with the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures. Not only can this code provide some advice on how to raise a grievance in the workplace, but should you take a claim of race discrimination to the Employment Tribunal, not following the ACAS code can impact the amount of compensation you are awarded.

Here is some general advice for reporting race discrimination;

  • Document the Incidents – It is beneficial to write down details about each discriminatory incident that occurs, including dates, times, places, what was said or done and the names of any witnesses. You should also save any related emails, text messages or other evidence.
  • Report the Incident InformallyUsually, it is a good idea to start by reporting any discriminatory behaviour informally. This could be raising concerns to a supervisor or a Human Resources manager, for example. An informal chat can be effective and employers often want to resolve any problems as quickly as possible without going through a formal procedure.
  • File a Formal Grievance – If your informal complaint does not lead to any action or you feel like the problem has not been resolved, you may need to take further action. You can raise a formal grievance in writing. If you are unsure about your organisation’s policies and procedures for grievances, refer to your employee handbook or ask your HR department for some guidance. Your organisation may have a grievance policy containing everything you need to know.
  • Make an Employment Tribunal Claim – Following a grievance hearing, if you are unhappy with the outcome and you feel as though nothing has changed, you may be able to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal. At this stage, it is beneficial to get some legal advice from an employment law specialist. It is worth noting that all race discrimination claims need to be made within three months less one day of the discriminatory conduct too and this time frame is very strict.


Resolving Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Resolving racial discrimination can be a complicated process that requires a combined effort. Depending on how you reported the discriminatory behaviour can impact how the problem is resolved and the severity of the situation will also be taken into consideration.

Sometimes, resolving race discrimination complaints may entail;

  • Employer Action – Whenever they receive a complaint, employers should take immediate action. This action will differ if you have made an informal complaint or a formal grievance, however, it will often include launching an investigation. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, common employer action could be taking disciplinary action against the perpetrators.
  • Organisational Change – For lasting change, your employer should commit to addressing any systemic issues that cause racial discrimination. This could involve updating policies or providing additional employee training, for example. All employers should be proactive in creating a more inclusive company culture, especially after an incident of race discrimination has occurred.
  • Compensation – If you decide to take a claim to the Employment Tribunal, you may also receive compensation for the discrimination you experienced. This compensation can be for loss of earnings and/or injury to health or feelings. An Employment Tribunal can also recommend that an employer takes a certain course of action, such as reinstating an unfairly dismissed employee.


Speak to a Race Discrimination Specialist in London

Race discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that should not be overlooked. Identifying, reporting and resolving discriminatory incidents is important and as an employee, you should not hesitate to tell your employer about discriminatory behaviour. Should you have any questions about race discrimination or you need some legal advice about Employment Tribunal claims, our team at Nationwide Employment Lawyers is here to help.

We have years of experience assisting employees with discrimination claims and we can provide you with a seamless, cost-effective service. Our race discrimination specialists in London are here to help and will represent you from beginning to end. Contact us today to discuss your experience of race discrimination with us in more detail.