Race Discrimination

When someone is treated unequally because of their race, their perceived race or the race of someone they are associated with, it is considered race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Under this Act, race is one of the ‘protected characteristics’ and as such, discriminating against someone because of race is illegal.

Definition Of Race According To The Equality Act 2010

The Act is clear in its definition of race. Race means being part of a group of people who are identified by their nationality, citizenship, colour, national or ethnic origins. If you belong to any one of these groups and you experience discrimination, it would be counted as race discrimination. It also counts as discrimination if you are not part of any one of these groups but someone discriminates against you because they think you are. This is known as perceived race discrimination.

Race discrimination that occurs within any of the subsequent settings is unlawful:

  • In the workplace.
  • In any educational institution.
  • Housing.
  • When providing  services or goods such as in the banking, entertainment or transportation industries.
  • Any activity performed by any of our public authorities like the police, prisons, the NHS, local authorities and government departments.

Also, irrespective of whether the race discrimination was deliberate or unintentional, it would still count as discrimination and be deemed unlawful.

Types of Race Discrimination

According to the Act, racism can be either indirect or direct. It could also be in the form of victimisation or harassment.

Direct discrimination –

When one person is treated less favourably compared to another person who is equally qualified only because of their race, it is considered direct race discrimination. Examples of direct discrimination would include being passed over for promotion because of the individuals colour, nationality or ethnic origin or not getting a job on grounds that ‘customers may object’ or some other similar reason. Physical and verbal abuse referring to a person’s nationality, colour or ethnic origin is also forms of direct race discrimination.

Indirect discrimination –

When an organisation has put in place certain rules that are applicable to all employees but will put certain groups at a disadvantage, it is known as indirect discrimination, which is also illegal. An example of indirect discrimination would be if an employer insists that all employees should have English as their first language even though the job tasks do not involve direct interaction with clients.

Harassment –

Creating an environment that is hostile, offensive, humiliating, intimidating or degrading for a person of another race is tantamount to harassment. This could include making offensive racial jokes or issuing veiled threats to anybody who falls within a certain racial group.

Victimisation –

If you’re being treated unfavourably because you have filed a racial discrimination complaint against an organisation or one of its employees, it is considered victimisation. Victimisation is unlawful and should be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities for appropriate action.

Race Discrimination by Association –

If an individual is discriminated against due to the race of somebody they are associated and not because of their own race, it is known as race discrimination that is by association. An example would be if an employer turns down your application for the job even though you happen to be the best fit for the position, just because your partner belongs to a race that the employer is biased against. Race discrimination by association is also illegal and you may have the grounds to file a claim.

Race Discrimination In The Workplace

The Equality Act applies to all employees and covers all areas of employment.

All employees include job applicants, contract workers, trainees, permanent employees and office holders such as partners and company directors.

All areas of employment include recruitment, selection, training, promotion, perks, occupational pensions, dismissals and retirement benefits.

What this means is, all employees, irrespective of their status or tenure with an organisation, have a right to file a claim of racial discrimination if they have been treated unfavourably on the basis of their race.

Race Discrimination In An Educational Institution

The Equality Act states that it is unlawful for any learning institution to discriminate against someone because of their race. This applies to private as well as state schools and colleges. Under this Act, educational institutions must take care not to discriminate in any of their policies or practices. This includes their admissions policies, exclusions, treatment of students and decisions regarding a student’s special education needs.

The Act also states that all educational institutions should have a clear policy in place to eradicate racism within their premises and encourage race equality.

Exceptions To The Law Against Race Discrimination

There are certain circumstances when the employer or educational institution may be within their legal rights to treat an individual what might be less favourably because of the persons race. These instances will not be counted as race discrimination.

Should an employer or school be able to display that an employee needs to be of a specific race so as to perform a particular job, they could be assertive on employing somebody who is of that race without falling foul of the law. In legal terms, this situation is called occupational requirement.

For example, where this clause might be lawful is a refuge for Indian women who are victims of domestic violence. In this case, the employer may be justified in wanting to employ only Indian women workers on the grounds that the female victims in the refuge would find it less difficult to communicate with and relate to workers of the same racial group.

What You Can Do If You Are A Victim Of Race Discrimination

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of race, you may be able to file a claim for unfair treatment. It is important to keep in mind however that the onus will be on you to establish that discrimination has occurred. Once you have established facts to show that discrimination has occurred, it is then up to your employer to explain the motives behind the unfavourable treatment and to prove that there was no discrimination.

Time limits

There are strict time limits for filing a claim for race discrimination. The time limit for making a claim for racial discrimination is three months from the act of discrimination.