Increased focus on workplace racism calls for employers to take immediate action


A new report investigating racist behaviour within the workplace was released earlier this month. The report highlighted that racist behaviour in the workplace was still commonplace and employers will face increased pressure to take action.


The report was commissioned by Business in the Community and assessed data collected by YouGov which was then examined by researchers at the University of Manchester. The report builds on the 2015 Race at Work survey previously published. In preparing the findings, the cases of 24,457 workers who had faced harassment on the grounds of race or other forms of bullying were investigated and particular focus was placed on how the employers promoted equality, diversity and fairness through internal policies. More importantly the report investigated not only the provision of internal policies, but the extent to which they were put into practice.

The Report

The report highlighted that ethnic minority workers were frequently subjected to racism, not only by their colleagues and managers but also by customers, clients and service users. The workers assessed showed that this behaviour was having a severe impact on their emotional and psychological wellbeing. A report published in the American Journal of Public Health stated that racism, particularly at work, is the most damaging form of harassment that an individual can face and that it has the most significant effect on that person's mental health. In addition to this, it was also reported that widespread racism was affecting careers in terms of recruitment and a reduction in opportunities.

At the other end of the debate, the report also found that a proportion of white British employees felt that the introduction of equality and diversity measures by some employers did not address the issue, simply gave minority employees preferential treatment and did not provide a universal protection to all employees. Within some organisations, the promotion of equality and diversity was at best inconsistent, and often non-existent.

The report calls for employers across all sectors to take a long hard look at their own internal policies and ensure that they are delivering an unequivocal, zero-tolerance approach to racism - not only in policy but in practice.

Moving forward

The report places increased pressure on the government to tackle racism in the workplace by toughening the legislation surrounding it, and to introduce more severe sanctions for employers falling foul of it. It is likely that employers will turn to their HR departments and in-house legal teams as the first point of contact when looking to address any inadequacies in their internal policies and procedures. Employers may expect them to be the driving force in ensuring that policies are complied with throughout the organisation, at all levels.

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