Articles of Interest
- Accompaniment, Workplace Representation and Disciplinary Outcomes in British Workplaces Just a Formality?
- Age discrimination
- Being dismissed by your employer
- Being made redundant
- Breach of contract
- Bullying in the workplace
- Changes to employment contracts
- Constructive dismissal
- Disability discrimination at work
- Disagreeing to changes in your employment conditions
- Disciplinary Hearings
- Disciplinary hearings: New right to legal representation?
- Disciplinary Hearings: Who Can Accompany You?
- Disciplinary issues at work
- Discrimination in the workplace
- Diversity and discrimination
- Employment contract terms
- Employment Tribunal
- Employment Tribunals: an introduction
- Fair reasons for dismissal
- Grievance hearings
- How to resolve a problem at work
- Human rights in the workplace
- Instant dismissals
- Racial Discrimination
- Raising a grievance at work
- Redundancy pay
- Redundancy: your right to consultation
- Representation at disciplinary hearings is becoming more complicated
- Sex discrimination and equal pay
- Sexual orientation discrimination
- Trade union representation
- Trade union representatives
- What is unfair dismissal
- What to do if you are unfairly dismissed
- You're not alone!
It's unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because of your race. You're protected against racial discrimination at all stages of employment. Find out about your rights and what to do if you feel you're being discriminated against.
What is racial discrimination?
The 1976 Race Relations Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on racial grounds. Race includes:
ethnic or national origins
Under the Act, it doesn't matter if the discrimination is done on purpose or not. What counts is whether (as a result of an employer's actions) you're treated unfavourably because of your race.
The Race Relations Act protects all racial groups, regardless of their race, colour, nationality, religious beliefs, national or ethnic origins.
Find out about religious discrimination
The different kinds of racial discrimination at work
The laws against racial discrimination at work cover every part of employment. This includes recruitment, terms and conditions, pay and benefits, status, training, promotion and transfer opportunities, right through to redundancy and dismissal.
The law allows a job to be restricted to people of a particular racial or ethnic group where there is a 'genuine occupational requirement'. An example is where a black actor is needed for a film or television programme.
There are four main kinds of discrimination:
direct discrimination - deliberate discrimination (eg where a particular job is only open to people of a specific racial group)
indirect discrimination - working practices, provisions or criteria that disadvantage members of any group (like introducing a dress code without good reason, which might discriminate against some ethnic groups)
harassment - participating in, allowing or encouraging behaviour that offends someone or creates a hostile atmosphere (eg making racist jokes at work)
victimisation - treating someone less favourably because they've complained or been involved in a complaint about racial discrimination (eg taking disciplinary action against someone for complaining about discrimination against themselves or another person)
Employers who don't stop discrimination, harassment and bullying by their employees may be breaking the law.
More about workplace discrimination
What is 'positive action'?
Positive action is where an employer provides support or encouragement to a particular racial group. It is only allowed where a specific racial group is badly under-represented among those doing particular work or filling particular posts in an employer's workforce.
The employer is allowed to provide special training to members of the racial group. They can also encourage members of the racial group to apply to do the work or fill the posts (for example, by saying that applications from them will be particularly welcome).
This does not mean that employers can discriminate in favour of the members of the group when it comes to choosing people to do the work or fill the posts, that is unlawful discrimination.
Positive action is not the same as 'positive discrimination', which is where members of a particular racial group are treated more favourably. Positive discrimination is unlawful.
What to do if you have problems
If you're being discriminated against at work
If you feel that another employee or a member of management other than your immediate boss is discriminating against you because of your race, talk to your immediate boss and explain your concerns. Your employee representative (such as a trade union official) - if you have one - may also be able to help.
If your line manager or supervisor is discriminating against you, you should talk to their boss or to the company's HR department.
Be clear in your mind about what you see as discrimination, and if necessary give examples in writing. Many employers have an equal opportunities policy, and you should ask to see a copy of this.
You should also talk to your employer if you're told to act in a way that you think discriminates - for example if you're told to treat someone differently because of their race, colour, nationality, ethnicity or national origins.
If your employer doesn't want to help, you may need to make a complaint using your employer's grievance procedure. You shouldn't be victimised for complaining as this would count as discrimination.
More about solving problems at work
Grievance procedures - find out more
More about protection against victimisation
If you're still unhappy, you can make a claim of race discrimination to an Employment Tribunal. You could get in touch with the Equality and Human Rights Commission or your local Racial Equality Council, if there is one, for advice.
Find out more about the Equality and Human Rights Commission website Opens new window
If you feel you were not offered a job because of your race
You can take your case to an Employment Tribunal. You may wish to take advice before doing this.
Religion or belief discrimination
It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against you because of your religion or belief. You are also protected against harassment or victimisation at work. Find out about your rights and what you can do if you are treated unfairly because of your religion or belief.
Protection from discrimination
There is no specific list that sets out what religion or belief discrimination is. The law defines it as any religion, religious or philosophical belief. This includes all major religions, as well as less widely practised ones.
You are also protected against discrimination if you do not follow any religion or belief, and your employer discriminates against you because of this. Political beliefs are not counted as a religion or belief.
If you are not sure what counts as a religion or belief under the law, you should seek further advice. In some cases you can apply to an Employment Tribunal to decide if you are being discriminated against for your religion or belief (or lack of religion or belief).
You are protected against discrimination through any recruitment process and in employment, including your terms and conditions of employment, pay, status, training, promotion and transfer opportunities, redundancy and dismissal and benefits such as pensions.
Discrimination in the workplace
Employment practices and religion or belief
Giving information to your employer
You do not have to give information to your employer about your religious beliefs, but if you do, it will help them meet the needs of religious employees. Any information you give should be confidential and anonymous if possible.
Time off and facilities
Your employer does not have to give you time off and facilities for religious observance but they should try to do so where possible. For example, if you need a prayer room and there is a suitable room available you should be allowed to use it, provided it does not disrupt others or your ability to do your job properly.
Your employer needs to consider carefully whether they are inadvertently discriminating indirectly. For example, if team meetings always take place on a Friday afternoon this may discriminate against Jewish and Muslim staff for whom Friday afternoon has a particular religious significance, although not everyone follows their faith in the same way.
If you want time off for religious holidays, ask well in advance. Your employer should consider your request sympathetically but they can refuse if it will affect the business.
If you wear clothing or jewellery for religious reasons, your employer should make sure any dress code does not discriminate against you. A flexible dress code is usually possible, as long as health and safety requirements are not at risk.
Some religions do not allow you to eat certain foods. If you do not want to handle such food (for example, if you work in a supermarket and don't want to handle pork), speak to your employer. They might be able to manage your request, provided it does not affect the business.