Race discrimination FAQ

Race discrimination

The 1976 Race Relations Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on racial grounds. The Race Relations Act protects all racial groups, regardless of their race, colour, nationality, religious beliefs, or their national or ethnic origins.

It doesn’t matter if the discrimination is intended or not: what’s important is whether you’re treated unfavourably because of your race.

What does the law cover?

The Race Relations Act covers every aspect of recruitment and employment, including:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Employment terms and conditions
  • Determining pay and benefits
  • Training and development
  • Selection for promotion or transfer
  • Discipline and grievances
  • Countering bullying and harassment
  • Redundancy and dismissal

However, a job can be restricted to people of a particular racial or ethnic group where there is a “genuine occupational requirement”, e.g. where a black actor is needed for a specific role.

What counts as racial discrimination?

There are four main kinds of racial discrimination:

Direct discrimination - this is the most obvious form of discrimination and is carried out deliberately (e.g. a job that is only offered to people of a specific racial group)

Indirect discrimination - more difficult to spot, this can occur where criteria or provisions or work practices disadvantage people of a specific racial or ethnic group (e.g. a dress code that precludes religious clothing requirements)

Harassment - this means participating in, encouraging or allowing offensive behaviour or a hostile working environment (e.g. making racist jokes)

Victimisation – this includes less favourable treatment of someone because they’ve complained or been involved in a complaint about racial discrimination (e.g. disciplinary action against someone for complaining about discrimination)

What should I do if I think I’ve suffered from discrimination at work?

It’s best to discuss the situation with your line manager first. But if they’re the one who’s discriminating against you, go straight to HR who can escalate the matter for you. Most employers have an equal opportunities policy, so ask to see a copy of this. If you have an employee representative, such as a trade union official, you may want to get them involved at this stage too.

If your employer doesn’t help, you may need to complain through formal grievance procedures.