HR Support against racial discrimination

The law against racial discrimination can be more complex than it seems

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024

Under the Equality Act 2010:

  • Race includes a person’s colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin
  • A person can be discriminated against because of their perceived race (perceptive discrimination), or the race of someone they associate with (associative discrimination), not just their own actual race
  • A person is protected during recruitment, employment, dismissal and redundancy
  • Other types of race discrimination include direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation

With so much to be aware of, and with managers carrying much of the responsibility, how can HR provide support against race discrimination and promote diversity? Here’s how.

HR practices for preventing race discrimination

HR can help prevent discrimination by fostering an equal and diverse workplace, and making all workers aware of race discrimination issues.

Review your workplace policies and practices

A good first step is to review key workplace policies, to remove any discriminatory practices.

Potentially discriminatory policies include those on:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Employee pay and benefits
  • Employee performance review and appraisals
  • Workplace dress code
  • Dismissal and redundancy

Going forward, make sure new company policies you draw up are also inclusive.

Make equality and diversity part of your culture

HR can actively promote diversity in the workplace in many ways.

  • Make the business case for diversity — Benefits often include developing a greater understanding of your customers, gaining access to more and diverse perspectives, and increased credibility for your brand.
  • Create an equality and diversity policy — Having a diversity policy makes it clear you take race discrimination seriously, and what you’re doing to prevent it. Your policy might set out a zero-tolerance approach to race discrimination, or set a goal for creating a more diverse workplace.
  • Review diversity regularly — Make sure progress is being made on equality and diversity issues at your workplace, by reviewing targets, your own policies, and changes to the law.

Make sure staff and line managers know their responsibilities

The legal definition of race discrimination is complex. If your staff don’t understand what counts as discrimination, it’s more likely they’ll offend. HR should work to communicate clear rules and workers’ responsibilities to treat colleagues fairly.

Line managers also have a key role to play, since they supervise workplace interactions and often receive workers’ discrimination complaints directly. HR should help line managers:

  • recognise race discrimination in all its forms
  • develop the skills to stamp out inappropriate behaviour quickly and informally where possible, before it becomes a problem

HR support for handling race discrimination

If one of your workers makes a race discrimination complaint, HR should be directly involved in resolving it. Be ready to:

  • Support the line manager handling the complaint by helping them to follow your organisation’s equality and disciplinary procedures properly
  • Make sure those involved are treated fairly and sensitively, including the complainant and the accused. Confidentially should be maintained for as long as possible.
  • Oversee handling of the complaint, to ensure Acas guidelines are followed. If the complaint goes to tribunal, you’ll need to show your organisation did everything possible to prevent the discrimination — and that a fair and proper process was followed.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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