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Race Discrimination & The Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act of 2010 referred to as “The Act” employees are given legislation that provide them with protection from any racial discrimination they may receive. Race discrimination happens when an employee is treated differently due to his/her race, this could be from a one-off act or from a rule or policy based on a person’s race. Race discrimination can also happen when a person is treated differently due to his/her perceived race or with who the person is associated with.

Within The Act race is defined as:

  • Colour
  • Nationality
  • Ethnic or national origins

Employees can be discriminated due to their race in a number of ways:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Who can be affected by race discrimination?

  • Employees (fixed and indefinite)
  • Job applicants
  • Trainees
  • Contract workers
  • Directors
  • Partners
  • The self-employed

Race discrimination can take place at all stages of employment (including recruitment, promotion, transfer opportunities, training, provision of benefits dismissal).

Direct Race Discrimination

Direct race discrimination refers to an employer being treated less favourably due to a person’s race compared to another employer in a similar situation. Similarly, The Act protects employers who are treated less favourably due to his/hers perceived race and also if the employer is treated differently due to the race of a person they are connected to.

An example of direct race discrimination

  • An employer decides not to promote an employee due to his/her nationality

Indirect Race Discrimination

Indirect race discrimination can occur where there is a workplace rule, policy or procedure that is applicable to all employees, however, disadvantages an employee who is of a different race. When claiming for indirect race discrimination the claimant must show evidence of how they have been personally disadvantaged, in addition to providing evidence of how the discrimination would or has led to disadvantages for other employees of different races.

An example of indirect race discrimination

  • An organisation states within its Employee Handbook that all employees must be clean shaven, this puts men within a particular religious group at a disadvantage.

Indirect race discrimination, in some circumstances, may be justified within the law. The organisation in question must provide evidence that the indirect race discrimination is a “proportionate measure of achieving a legitimate aim”. Therefore, showing the discrimination is of rational business needs.


Harassment relating to race can arise when an employee or employer engages in unwanted conduct towards another employee which makes him/her feel humiliated, offended and/or degraded. Unwanted conduct includes the written or spoken word, jokes, drawings, unwarranted monitoring of work, unnecessary criticism of work and other behaviour. Harassment can never be justified, however, if the employer can show that it put steps in place to prevent the harassment taking place, a harassment claim will not be able to be made against the employer. The claim will have to be made against the harasser. Furthermore, under The Act, employees are now able to hold employers liable for third-party harassment from clients, customers, suppliers or patients.

Examples of harassment associated with race discrimination

  • A British Asian employee has constant name calling and racist remarks made towards him by other colleagues. The colleagues argue it is just office banter however the employee has been offended and insulted by the remarks.
  • A white employee has seen another employee of a different race being subjected to racial discrimination from their employer.


Victimisation occurs when an employee has been treated badly due to a complaint made regarding racial discrimination. Victimisation can therefore occur directly when making a complaint regarding race discrimination or when supporting an employee through making their race complaint.

Examples of victimisation associated with race discrimination

  • A black employee has been put forward for dismissal due to a previous complaint regarding the treatment he/she receives from the directors of the firm.
  • After making a complaint to the manager about the racist language used within the firm an employee is now being ignored which is upsetting and making the employee feel ill.

Circumstances where racial discrimination is allowed to take place

Under The Act there are certain circumstances where it is allowed for employers to discrimination against employees due to their race. The allowing of discrimination is called an occupational requirement which entitles an employer to specify their need for a particular protected characteristic in order for their business to run. However, the employer must show evidence of the genuine need for the protected characteristic.

Examples where racial discrimination is allowed:

  • An organisation specialising in working with people from a particular ethnic group and therefore requires job applicants to be of the same ethnic background.
  • A theatre company is producing a play. Within the play the actors must be of a certain sex and ethnic background to be consistent with the script.

Contact KLG – No Win No Fee Race Discrimination Lawyers in London, Reading, Slough, Watford, Maidenhead & Henley

If you feel that you have been discriminated against regarding race, please get in touch with Kalra Legal Group on 08008321554 to speak with an employment lawyer who will advise you on the next steps to make.

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