Dealing with racism in any setting is unacceptable, but racism at work can be particularly damaging as it is an environment that requires mutual respect and appreciation. Racism is defined as any maltreatment, prejudice, or discrimination towards a person or group based on their race or membership of a particular ethnic group. In the workplace, this can come in many different shapes and sizes, both direct and indirect. Racism occurs towards ethnic groups who have been marginalised or are in some way in a minority.
Part of having an equal, inclusive and diverse workplace is zero tolerance to discriminatory behaviour such as racism. If your employer is committed to equal opportunities, they should take any claims of racism seriously; racism is not something anybody should have to face in the workplace, no matter your role or position.
What does racism in the workplace look like?
While you may think you know what racism looks like, it can take many subtle forms in the workplace. This can make it very hard for victims of racism to speak out, as they don’t want to be seen to be fabricating a situation or exaggerating another person’s behaviour. BAME staff must know that racism on any scale, minor to major, is illegal and shouldn’t continue.
As a BAME member of staff or jobseeker, you may sometimes be in the minority in your place of work. If this is at any time leads to mistreatment, or you are being treated unfairly, you might be experiencing racism and should raise it as soon as you can. Here are some ways that racism might manifest in the workplace:
Racist jokes, offensive words, racial slurs.
Racism doesn’t always sound serious, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hugely offensive and bigoted. Racist jokes can be highly isolating and dehumanising for many BAME members of staff who feel they can’t call out racism in this form. So if you hear racist jokes, slurs or language, whether directed towards you or not, make sure to point out that that kind of behaviour is unacceptable.
Being treated more junior than you are.
This is a common problem for many BAME members of staff. Having your abilities and ideas undervalued can be an aggressive form of racism that slowly takes away your confidence and self-belief.
The BAME employment gap stood at 29.3% in 2020. This marks the difference in hourly pay between BAME staff and non-BAME staff. Being paid less than you deserve is a form of racist discrimination and is illegal under the 2010 equality act. However, some companies are choosing to adopt a transparent pay system to avoid marginalised staff being underpaid.
What shall I do if I experience racism at work?
As mentioned previously, racism in any setting, including the workplace, is illegal under the 2010 Equality Act. This means that all staff members are protected from unfair treatment and antagonism by the law. If you feel you are experiencing racism at work in any form, make sure to raise it with a manager immediately. If you don’t want to speak to your boss or manager, you can go straight to your HR department. They will be able to help you to process a formal complaint or take any further action which you desire.
If you do not feel safe to do so, there is no pressure for you to call out the racist behaviour to the perpetrator. You could choose to move forward in the complaint procedure anonymously. Perhaps they are aggressive, and you are frightened of their response, or you don’t want to exacerbate their behaviour. Whatever you feel comfortable with, HR will be able to help you move forward.