The Race Discrimination Act At Work UK
The Equality Act, which came into force in 2010, covers employees from being treated unfairly due to these factors.
The word "discrimination" includes a variety of scenarios, all of which can have an adverse effect on employees and could even lead to legal action. Probably the most often cited type of discrimination is direct discrimination, where an employee is clearly treated differently because of race: either their own, or that of someone with whom they associate themselves.
Harassment and victimisation are normally included within the definition of direct discrimination. Harassment occurs when the employee is subjected to unwanted behaviour due to their race or the race of someone with whom they associate: behaviour which could include the written or spoken word, actions, behaviour or jokes. Harassment is defined as an act that violates the employee's dignity, or creates an unpleasant working environment.
Victimisation, on the other hand, involves employers or colleagues treating somebody less favourably than others, as a result of a complaint about racial discrimination at work.
Indirect discrimination occurs when certain rules or regulations in the workplace may indirectly prevent a person of a certain race from being employed, from keeping a job or from progressing within the organisation. For example, a rule requiring that all male employees have short hair may discriminate against Sikh men, whose religion involves them wearing long hair beneath a turban.
It is also possible, however, for positive discrimination to occur, for example, in situations where an actor of a particular race is required to play a defined role in a film, television programme or play.
Racial discrimination can be seen at a variety of stages throughout the employment process. In order to comply with The Race Discrimination Act, employees must be sure to have procedures and guidelines in place which prevent discrimination when it comes to candidate selection, pay levels and benefits, training, grievances and disciplinary action, promotions/transfers, and termination of employment. The company must also have the relevant procedures in place to deal with any race-related issues that arise.
Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against on the grounds of race may often find that it is hard to provide clear evidence of racial discrimination. If such a case is taken to an employment tribunal, the tribunal will often employ the "reversal of the burden of proof", where the responsibility falls to the employer to prove that they have not discriminated against the employee in question.
Even if an action, comment or joke is meant in a lighthearted way, it is important to think about how others could perceive and react to events that take place within a work environment, as the consequences can be very serious indeed.