Written By: Matt Gingell 16/11/15
We need to talk about race issues at work. We’ve been talking a lot about gender and age. Now it’s time to talk about race too. Why? A recent survey of over 24,000 ethnic minority and white employees has highlighted a very big problem and like any problem, it’s no good sweeping it under the carpet. Race discrimination is prevalent in the workplace – and these unequal opportunities need to be addressed.
The Race at Work report, published by Business in the Community, has summarised the findings of the survey. Worryingly, 28 per cent of employees from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background have directly experienced or witnessed racial harassment or bullying from their manager in the last five years.
28% of employees from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background have experienced or witnessed racial harassment in the last five years
Out of those employees surveyed who either witnessed or directly experienced racial harassment or bullying (including white employees) an alarming 30 per cent said it happened in the last year alone. Also, 30 per cent of employees from a BAME background felt they’d been overlooked for a promotion in their current organisation compared to 23 per cent white employees.
On top of all that, less than half of the employees (49 per cent) reported that they’ve been offered equality, diversity and inclusion training within their organisation. Out of those offered it, only 65 per cent reported it being mandatory.
What’s the current legal framework?
Under our equality legislation, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably because of race. Race is defined as including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. It’s not necessary to show that the perpetrator discriminated consciously – just that race played a significant part in the treatment.
It’s also unlawful for an employer to discriminate by applying a provision, criterion or practice that disadvantages job applicants or employees of a particular racial group without justification. An example could be employers insisting that candidates for a job have UK qualifications. However, if an employer can show why UK qualifications are necessary, it could be justified.
Harassment related to race and victimisation are prohibited too.
But even if the law prohibits what it should prohibit, is that enough? No it’s not enough. Why? Because allegations of race discrimination are difficult to prove and employees have to fork out so much cash in legal fees to bring claims. What will change things though is if we talk more about race issues in the workplace and the business case for racial equality. Only then will bosses begin to recognise that they need to speak out against race discrimination and seek to stamp it out.
There is a strong business case, as well as strong moral one, for racial equality. McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report found that organisations with racially diverse senior management experience 35 per cent greater financial returns. With our skills gap as well, employers would quite simply be mad not to fully utilise the talent of all those who are willing and able to work. Race discrimination has to be eradicated.