Racism in the Workplace

What is Racism

Race discrimination is when someone is unfairly disadvantaged for reasons related to their race, which as defined by the Equality Act 2021 includes, colour, nationality and ethnic or national origin.

Race discrimination has been illegal in the UK since 1976, racist abuse and race discrimination towards someone is completely unacceptable.

In line with the Equality at Work Act 2020, race is a protected characteristic.

Racial harassment can include any unwanted conduct that is related to an employee’s race, as this can violate the employee’s dignity and creates an offensive environment, any complaints of discrimination in the workplace must be fully investigated.

Race discrimination can be direct or indirect and can be also in the form of harassment or victimisation.

Indirect discrimination is when a practise or process is implemented and applied to all but puts a group of employees who have a protected characteristic at a disadvantage when compared to another group of employees.

Direct discrimination is treating someone less favourably than someone else because of a protected characteristic. For example, refusing to employ someone because of their race.

Employers must ensure that they have resources and practices in place to help to eliminate racism in the workplace. HR professionals help employers to create a fair and inclusive workplace.

It is recommended that employers ensure they have the following in place:

  • An Inclusion and Diversity Policy.
  • An Equal Opportunities Policy in place to protect employees.
  • A recruitment policy that is not open to discrimination on the basis of race.
  • Appraisal and performance management processes that are not biased and ensure that any promotion and training opportunities are available for all employees.
  • Training for all leaders to ensure they are aware of all policies and procedures and how to implement these in a fair manner to create an inclusive working environment.
  • Communications to employees to inform them that any form of discrimination will not be tolerated and ensure that they know their role to play when tackling racism.

How to deal with racism in the workplace

If an employer receives a complaint from an employee saying they have experienced racism, this allegation must be taken seriously and a full and thorough investigation be conducted. A complaint of racism will be put in as a grievance usually, employers must ensure that when dealing with a grievance they follow the company’s grievance procedure, or at the minimum the ACAS Code of Practice. The ACAS Code of Practice is not a legal process, however, following the code would show an employment tribunal that the employer has acted fairly when dealing with a complaint.


For further advice on any other HR topic, feel free to contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk.

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