How to combat race discrimination at work

The first step towards combating race discrimination is to understand what is meant by the term “race” and how discrimination can arise. 

Race does not just refer to a person’s colour, but also to their nationality, citizenship or ethnic or national origins.  Discrimination on the grounds of race can be direct or indirect or even because of the race of someone that a person is connected to, such as a partner or family member.

Race discrimination is not only unpleasant it is unlawful, not only in respect of employment and training but also in the context of education, the activities of all business in providing goods and services and in the activities of all public authorities.

Race discrimination in the employment context

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any person working for them, on the grounds of their race regardless of the size of the workforce.  Workers, including employees, agency workers, trainees and those who are self-employed have protection from race discrimination when they are at work. It also requires that nobody is treated differently on racial grounds in respect of:

  • recruitment and selection
  • promotion
  • training, pay and benefits
  • furlough, redundancy and dismissal
  • terms and conditions of work

Race discrimination does not need to be deliberate. Someone may be discriminating without realising it or meaning to, but this might still count as discrimination.

Direct race discrimination

It is direct race discrimination to treat someone less favourably at work on the grounds of their race.   Racist abuse and harassment are forms of direct discrimination. It is also direct discrimination if an employer turns down a person for a job because of their connection with someone else of a particular racial group.

Indirect race discrimination 

It is indirect race discrimination to have a rule, policy or practice which people of a particular racial, ethnic or national group are less likely to be able to meet than other people in the workforce, and this places them at a disadvantage. An example might be insisting on English as a first language.

If you think that indirect race discrimination might have occurred, you can raise a grievance or take the matter further. 

When less favourable treatment is not discrimination

If the employer can show that there are genuine reasons for the rule, policy or practice and that it has nothing to do with race, this will not amount to discrimination.

There are also some rare situations where employers are allowed to treat someone less favourably because of race and this won't count as discrimination. An example might be an actor for a specific role in a play.

At Phillips Solicitors our Employment Law team will be happy to assist you with any aspect of employment law. For advice please contact Gill Brown on 01256 854605 or email [email protected]

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This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.