Racial discrimination


Racial discrimination describes any situation where a person is unfairly treated because of their ethnic origin, physical appearance or nationality.

Racial discrimination also occurs when unfair treatment is meted out because of the race of your partner. Racial discrimination is illegal, and can give rise to both civil actions and charges for a criminal offence.

What is the law on race discrimination?

Racial discrimination is one of the most serious forms of discrimination that can you could be the victim of. Discrimination is defined as being treated differently from everyone else. Racial discrimination uses your race as the differentiating factor in the discrimination you are suffering.

Equal opportunities laws in the UK state you cannot be discriminated against in any way due to your race. The Race Relations Act 1976 is the piece of legislation that makes it illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because of your race. Race discrimination can mean your:

  • Colour
  • Ethnic origins
  • Your nationality

Note that racial discrimination breaks the Race Relations Act even if the discrimination was unintentional.

Direct and indirect racial discrimination

Direct racial discrimination occurs when someone is treated poorly because of their race, and can draw a direct comparison of more favourable treatment being applied to someone else of a different racial group in a similar situation. When a person is subjected to direct racial abuse, be it physical or verbal, it is always direct racial discrimination.

Indirect racial discrimination occurs when a policy is created that is more difficult for people from other racial groups to adhere to. Examples of indirect discrimination might include:

  • An employer insisting that candidates can only have qualifications from the UK
  • Banning religious or cultural dress in the workplace

What to do next

If you feel that you are the victim of racial discrimination at work, you should initially bring these concerns to the attention of your employer. You can be represented by a trade union official if you are a member.

You should take your grievance to your line manager or your employer’s HR (Human Resources) department if there is one. It is important to understand what kind of racial discrimination you allege you are suffering from. The services of a solicitor who has experience in dealing with racial discrimination cases can help you write a letter to your employer explaining your concerns.

Your employer has to take your letter seriously. If they do not, you can then move to your company’s grievance procedure which your staff handbook should give details of. Again, the help, advice and support of a racial discrimination solicitor would be very useful to you.

And if the grievance procedure does not result in a satisfactory outcome, you then have the right to go to an employment tribunal. If you do decide on this action, it is in your best interests to have a solicitor represent you in court.

For more general discrimination advice, see our information page on discrimination in the workplace.

Do you feel you are being discriminated against on grounds of your race? Contact Law works with employment law specialists and discrimination solicitors around the country who have experience in bringing racial discrimination claims, and achieving successful outcomes. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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