Racial Discrimination at Work

Racial Discrimination at Work

Section 9 of the Equality Act 2010 covers the protected characteristic of Race.  Race for the purpose of the Equality Act includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins.[1]

Discrimination on the basis of caste is not yet included in the legislation. Although it is fully expected to be included in the future legislative progress is very slow.[2]

There are four forms of discrimination which are described in greater detail below.

Direct Discrimination

This describes the situation in which someone is treated less favourably because of their actual or perceived race, or the race of someone with whom they associate.  The intention of the employer is irrelevant.  In other words an employee might have a case  against their employer regardless of whether they meant to discriminate against them.

Indirect Discrimination

This describes the situation where there is a policy, practice or procedure which applies to all workers, but particularly disadvantages people of a particular race.


This is unwanted conduct related to race which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.   The  EHRC’s Employment Code of Practice describes the following as examples of harassment: spoken or written words; abuse; imagery, graffiti or physical behaviour.

An employee need not make their objections known at the time of the harassment for it to be considered unwanted.  Equally the harassment need not necessarily have been directed at the employee who complains of the unwanted conduct.


This describes the situation in which an employee is subjected to a detriment (treated unfavourably) because they have done, or may do a protected act.  A protected act is bringing proceedings under the Equality Act 2010, giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings or making an allegation that someone has contravened the act.  This means that an employee whom makes a complaint to his employer that he has suffered racial discrimination or harassment must not be treated less favourably because of that complaint.  For example denying a promotion to someone who has made an allegation and describing them as a trouble causer.