Race discrimination at work

Steps for employers to prevent race discrimination

All employers should take steps to try to make sure race discrimination – including racial harassment and victimisation – does not happen at work.

You should aim for a culture of zero tolerance of racism and race discrimination. To try to achieve this, you should:

  • remove or reduce risks of race discrimination
  • offer support to anyone who's affected by it
  • make it clear to everyone who works for you, or uses your services, that race discrimination is against the law (Equality Act 2010) and you will not tolerate it
  • train your staff on recognising race discrimination and encourage them to report it
  • make sure all your policies are consistent in having zero tolerance of race discrimination
  • recognise the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce that does not exclude anyone because of race

If you are a small business or organisation and feel you do not have enough resources to do all these things, you should still do as much as you can.

Improve equality, diversity and inclusion

Race discrimination can be less likely to happen in a workplace that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion, for example when there's a range of people from different backgrounds.

Find out more about improving equality, diversity and inclusion at work

Talk about language and race

It's important to talk to your staff about appropriate language to use when discussing race. This includes when you're speaking with individual staff members and in wider communications at work.

You should make it clear that racist language is not acceptable, including things some might consider as 'banter' or jokes.

You should also be sensitive in the terms you use around race and ethnicity. Common terms include:

  • BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic)
  • BME (black and minority ethnic)
  • ethnic minorities
  • minority ethnic
  • people of colour

Each of these terms can be problematic and there's no one term that everyone will prefer. Talk to your staff about how they feel about these terms. Language and preferences can also change over time.

Where there's a genuine need to refer to race, use a specific ethnic identity where it's relevant. For example, if you're discussing issues that specifically affect black employees make sure that's clear – broader terms like 'BAME' or 'ethnic minorities' would not be appropriate.

For more advice, read frequently asked questions about race in the workplace from the CIPD.

Put policies and procedures in place

You must follow a full and fair procedure for handling race discrimination complaints, in line with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

You may want to develop specific policies for your organisation, for example:

  • a bullying, discrimination and harassment policy – including how you will handle complaints
  • an equality, diversity and inclusion policy

If you create a specific equality, diversity and inclusion policy

If you decide to create a specific equality, diversity and inclusion policy, you should do this in consultation with either:

  • trade unions
  • other employee representatives, where there's no trade union

The following are examples of what you should consider including:

  • talking about race at work – including language and terminology
  • supporting and listening to ethnic minority staff – this could include setting up a formal group like a race equality network
  • supporting allies – people who are not from an ethnic minority but who want to help make sure their workplace is inclusive
  • steps you will take to avoid racial stereotyping
  • how you will value and respect cultural differences
  • managing languages at work – for example if a group of employees share a common language other than English, or if there's a Welsh language requirement
  • addressing issues relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) and the disproportionate effect on some groups

Find out more about creating an equality, diversity and inclusion policy

Consider creating an anti-racism strategy

You may want to create a specific anti-racism strategy or plan. This is sometimes called a race equality plan or race action plan.

If you do this, it should cover:

  • all areas of your organisation's work
  • any aspects of your organisation's culture or processes that are particularly problematic, and how you plan to address them
  • any issues that have arisen because of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • strong messages about zero tolerance of racism, discrimination and harassment
  • how you'll use equality monitoring and data

You should create the strategy or plan in consultation with trade unions or other employee representatives.

Find out more about developing an anti-racism strategy from the CIPD

Make sure other policies are in line

It's important that all your policies match up. You should check all relevant policies to make sure they do not discriminate against anyone because of race, including:

  • bereavement
  • dress code
  • data protection and confidentiality (following UK GDPR)
  • flexible working
  • recruitment
  • social media
  • training and development

For example:

  • your social media policy should make it clear there is zero tolerance of race discrimination at work, including on personal devices
  • if you have a dress code policy, it must not directly or indirectly discriminate because of any aspects of race, for example against Sikhs who wear a turban
  • your bereavement policy should take into account that some staff may need to travel abroad at short notice and may need more time off

Train staff

This includes:

  • training everyone who works for you on recognising and understanding race discrimination
  • training managers and others to know how to deal with racist behaviour and discrimination

Acas training for employers and managers includes:

It's important to understand that training on its own is not likely to get rid of unconscious bias or discrimination. Training needs to be part of a wider plan.

Consider mentoring

You may want to consider a mentoring scheme. For example:

  • a scheme to support ethnic minority staff to progress in their career
  • a 'reverse mentoring' scheme where more junior ethnic minority staff share their experiences and ideas with senior staff

If you use mentoring schemes to take 'positive action', for example to support people to progress in their career, you must be able to prove that this action is needed to help a disadvantaged or under-represented group.

Create ways for staff to be heard

This can include:

  • setting up a formal group for ethnic minority staff and their allies to share experiences, raise concerns and support each other – for example a race equality network
  • appointing 'race champions' who can speak up for under-represented groups and flag issues that need addressing at a high level

Make sure you support these groups or roles once they're set up. This includes:

  • giving people the time to be involved
  • actively listening to concerns raised
  • taking steps to resolve issues

Evaluate and measure change

You should regularly check if policies and procedures for preventing race discrimination and handling complaints are working or if they need to change.

It's also important to regularly evaluate other steps you've taken. How you do this will depend on what you've done and any particular issues you were trying to address.

For example, you could:

  • check the diversity of your staff
  • do anonymous staff surveys
  • see if you have a disproportionate staff turnover for ethnic minority employees
  • do a race analysis of roles and pay grades
  • consult with your trade union, if there is one

Acas support for employers

If you need help to deal with any challenges in your organisation, you can:

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