When facing bullying or discrimination at work, it can be hard to know what to do. Experiencing discrimination based on a protected characteristic can be an isolating and challenging experience, many staff members worry about causing offence or losing their job. But it’s essential to know there are protocols and systems in place to support and protect you. One of those is Human Resources, also known as HR.

What is HR?

HR is the department that manages all employee-related processes from recruitment right the way through to off-boarding and dismissal. They manage all employment contracts, pay, training, benefits, and possibly most importantly, conduct disciplinary actions. Their primary role is to support employees and act a resource for everything they may need support through their employment, whether practical and logistical or related to a more sensitive topic such as bullying. 

How can HR help with discrimination?

Discrimination at work can only be dealt with by raising it with those who can help and support you. Suppose you don’t want to raise an issue with your manager, you may choose to arrange a meeting with somebody from HR who you trust and feel supported by. 

If an employee feels another staff member has mistreated them, they can take their complaint to HR. You can do this informally in the form of a conversation; for example, you might raise some concerns you have for a second opinion on how you should move forwards, or respond to a particular request from another employee. Or you can do it formally through a written complaint or by a raising a grievance. 

When raising a grievance, the person managing the issue must be impartial. This means they can’t have had anything to do with the incident that has occurred, which is why HR is an excellent place to turn to. They will be able to mediate and manage the situation from an outside perspective. 

HR can also be supportive in the workplace by encouraging an awareness of discrimination issues before they happen. If you feel that your workplace could better support inclusivity and diversity through some training or education, you can raise this with HR. They will be able to implement and oversee any new training opportunities and monitor their success. 

HR is also in charge of recruitment, which is an area of business which is often affected by unconscious bias and other discriminatory beliefs. If you feel that your employer’s recruitment process could be improved, or expanded to reach more diverse candidates, you can make a formal suggestion to HR. 

How can I contact HR?

You can contact HR at any time during your employment for help and support. Their size will depend on the size of the organisation or company you work for; large businesses and public-sector organisations will have huge HR departments with hundreds of staff members. Employees can usually contact them by email, or if you work in an office, you can visit them. 

If you feel discriminated against at work and need extra support, there are resources available to you. Speak to Citizens Advice or visit the government website. 

For more useful resources, have a look at our guide to job applications and interviews.