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What to do if you witness racism at work

Liam Grime

Nobody should be experiencing racism or discrimination, whether this is inside or outside the workplace. It’s 2018 and it certainly has no welcome place in society, yet there are still those that are unfortunately prejudiced against, due to the colour of their skin or their beliefs. Contributor Liam Grime, Employment Law Consultant – ELAS.

Everyone from CEO’s down to interns may experience some form of racism in the workplace, and the likes of Manchester United’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have demonstrated that racism is rife in all walks of life, from sport to corporate.

The two high-profile incidents follow the release of figures showing that incidents reported to anti-discrimination body Kick It Out have increased for at least the fifth year in a row. Statistics for the 2017-18 season, published on November 28, showed a 22 percent rise in racist incidents in football games among all British levels. So is this the same for workplaces as well?

Recent studies have shown a huge racial bias in Britain and British recruitment. A study conducted by The Guardian has revealed that young black men are changing their names in order to help with their job search.  Some instances have actually seen there application progress once they’ve changed their name. Examples have shown; “Same job – applied with my actual surname and didn’t get a call back, applied with a Christian name and got an interview.”

So what should you do if you experience racism in the workplace? Liam Grime, Employment Law Consultant at ELAS, discusses what employees and employers should do if they experience racism in their company.

“Racism, unfortunately, occurs in life whether that be in our personal or professional lives. With regards to racism in the workplace however, this occurs in different ways, whether that be the less favourable treatment of an employee on the grounds of race, which could amount to discrimination as provided by the Equality Act 2010, or whether employees are being abusive of or bullying a colleague because of their race.

“Employers should be advocates of equal opportunity and equality and diversity in the workplace and they have an implied duty to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination, bullying and harassment of their employees, and there are several ways in which they can seek to achieve this.

 “Having clear policies on equal opportunities and equality and diversity will help send a message to employees that the derogatory treatment of employees on the grounds of their race, or any other protected characteristic, will not be tolerated and that in almost all cases where an employee is accused of such behaviour, this would amount to gross misconduct and could lead to their summary dismissal if found guilty. Employers would do well to provide training on anti-discrimination, bullying and harassment for their employees also. It is particularly important that the training helps employees to identify what constitutes racism and discrimination, harassment and bullying and what the consequences of such actions could be. Training for managers on how to deal with such complaints would also be beneficial.

 “Should an employee raise a complaint of being subjected to racism, the employer should take the matter very seriously and endeavor to deal with the matter seriously. Complaints of racism would likely come in the form of a formal grievance, and luckily there are set procedures provided by the ACAS Code of Practice to help employers deal with such matters. Following the ACAS Code of Practice, although it has no legal force, will help demonstrate to an employment tribunal that the employer has acted fairly in dealing with such complaints.

“Upon receiving the complaint, the employee should be invited into a grievance hearing, with at least 48 hours’ notice and the right to be accompanied. At the hearing the employee is asked to elaborate on their complaint where needed, being as specific as possible, in order to aid the employer in a thorough investigation into the described allegations. Once the investigation has been carried out, its findings are relayed in a written outcome to the employee’s grievance with the right of appeal should they be dissatisfied with it.  Should it be found that there was indeed substance to the allegations of racism, the culprit would be subjected to disciplinary action and this could lead to their summary dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct.”

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