The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race and religion or belief. It applies to England, Scotland and Wales. It covers the provision of jobs, training, housing, education, goods and services and exercising of public function. It covers all employers and vast majority of employees.
“It is clear that ethnic minorities’ experiences of work are still not equal to their white peers. Despite having greater enjoyment and ambition for work, the experience of the workplace processes and cultures for BAME [Black and Minority Ethnic] employees is certainly not ideal. This is compounded by the extremely worrying finding that incidents of racial harassment and bullying appear to be on the rise. The scale of this challenge is immense and needs immediate action.” Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community
Sandra Kerr’s concerns of the experiences of ethnic minorities in employment encourage us to reflect on what employers can do to ensure race and faith equality are progressed in the workplace.
It has been highlighted that alongside policies of inclusion, it is equally important to have an inclusive culture. In establishing an inclusive workplace culture it is important to consider the following:
- Promotion of a good work/life balance
- Making processes for promotion and performance transparent
- Making everyone feel comfortable, for example employers are mindful of types of social events planned so people who don’t drink alcohol can also participate
Indeed, ensuring that religious and cultural needs are met is of paramount importance. Terms and conditions of employment and workplace practices should aim to take into account the cultural needs of BAME workers, particularly in terms of extended leave, dress codes, food served in canteens and social events organised by work. Alongside this, it is equally important not to make assumptions about individual’s cultural identities. Creating an environment where employees talk to you and discuss their needs will help to establish this culture so it is important to publicise that the employer and unions will take issues serious and want to meet everyone’s needs.
A key area of concern in British workplaces is the underrepresentation of BAME employees. Government research (DWP, 2009) has shown that there is racial discrimination in recruitment. It has been argued during recruitment processes perceptions about BAME candidates who don’t ‘fit in’ with the organisational culture can sometimes be based on ‘ethnocentrism, hidden bias and prejudice’. This process ensures that BAME candidates are under-represented in workforces. Employer education and awareness of this can help to address this issue.