About 40% of UK's ethnic minority employees have faced racism at work in past five years

Discrimination experienced by hundreds of thousands of workers could go unreported or unaddressed, trade union says

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC. Hundreds of thousands of black and minority ethnic employees in the UK could be at risk of racist treatment and discrimination at work. PA
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Two out of five black and ethnic minority employees have experienced racism at work in the past five years, British trade unions have said.

Hundreds of thousands of BMEs — an umbrella term referring to black and non-white ethnic minority people — could be at risk of racist treatment and discrimination at work, a report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said.

Such discrimination ranges from racist bullying and harassment to more “hidden” racism such as jokes, stereotypes or being treated differently at work, the report said.

With 3.9 million BME employees in the country, the TUC said there could be hundreds of thousands of workers facing discrimination that goes unreported or unaddressed.

The TUC has called on the government to change the law so employers are held more responsible for protecting employees and preventing workplace racism.

The union commissioned researchers at Number Cruncher Politics to poll 1,750 BME workers in the UK and conduct focus group interviews to shine a light on racism across Britain.

More than half of people surveyed who were aged between 24 and 34 said that they have faced racism at work in the past five years. This rises to 58 per cent for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Racist jokes or “banter” as well as people using stereotypes or commenting on their appearance affected more than a quarter of the respondents.

And one in five people said that they had been bullied or harassed at work. The same amount had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence.

The vast majority of people who have been subject to harassment have not told their employer, the TUC said.

This is largely because of fears of not being taken seriously or concerns about how it will affect working relationships with colleagues.

“This report lifts the lid on racism in UK workplaces,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary.

“It shines a light on the enormous scale of structural and institutional discrimination BME workers face.

“Many told us they experienced racist bullying, harassment — and worse. And alarmingly, the vast majority did not report this to their employer.”

Ms O'Grady added that others surveyed had said “hidden” institutional racism affected their day-to-day working life, from not getting training and promotion opportunities to being given less popular shifts and holidays.

“It’s disgraceful that in 2022 racism still determines who gets hired, trained, promoted — and who gets demoted and dismissed,” she continued.

“This report must be a wake-up call. Ministers need to change the law so that employers are responsible for protecting their workers and preventing racism at work.”

She said that employers must be clear that they have a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and that they will support staff who raise concerns about the issue or who are subjected to abuse.

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The TUC said improving workers’ rights would help to alleviate the issue because BME workers are significantly more likely to hold jobs that are insecure, such as those with zero-hours contracts.

Furthermore, compulsory ethnicity pay gap reporting should be introduced alongside action plans from employers, the TUC said.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 11:11 AM