Race discrimination takes place when someone is discriminated against, victimised or harassed on the basis of their race. For the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 race includes nationality, colour and origin. This definition is not full and other characteristics may be eligible for protection. A race can be more widely defined than a single nation such as any discrimination against ‘East Asians’ which might include both Japanese and Korean people.
There are four types of race discrimination:
- Direct discrimination: Direct discrimination occurs where an employee is treated less favourably because of their actual race, their perceived race, or the race of someone with whom they associate. For example, a Black employee with the same skills and qualifications as his white colleagues passed over for promotion on several occasions. The post is filled by white employees.
- Indirect discrimination: This can occur when an employer applies a policy, practice or procedure to all workers which particularly disadvantages a group of workers who are of the same race. For example, a job advertisement requires a “native English speaker”. The job applicant meets all requirements, but is bilingual. He is refused the role because he is a non-native English speaker. Such workplace rules will only be justifiable where there it is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
- Harassment: Harassment can occur when unwanted conduct related to race has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive environment. For example, telling racist jokes at work which are found to be offensive.
- Victimisation: Victimisation occurs when someone is subjected to a detriment because they have made a complaint or raised a grievance about discrimination (or they intend to) or because they are assisting someone else who has complained about discrimination for example by giving evidence in proceedings (or they intend to). Examples of victimisation include dismissing, passing over for promotion or not giving a bonus to an employee because that employee has submitted a complaint about discrimination
Compensation for discrimination is uncapped, meaning the Tribunal can award a substantial amount. The compensation can take into account financial losses and ‘injury to feelings’, intended to compensate the victim for the stress and anxiety suffered as a result of the employer’s unlawful acts of discrimination. The amount of an award may be increased if the employer has acted in a particularly malicious manner.
With an increasingly diverse labour-force, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for race discrimination at every stage of employment, from recruitment to dismissal. Employers should also have policies in place to prevent race discrimination in determining pay, training and development, selection for promotion, and in their discipline and grievance processes.
Employers should be sensitive to the different cultural backgrounds of their staff and it is good practice to provide training to staff to establish a culture of respect and an understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. In particular staff should be aware of the need to avoid racial stereotyping and the use of unacceptable terminology. It is very common for one person’s ‘banter’ to become a discrimination claim.
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