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Do you know your rights?

Did you know that in certain situations such as at work you can’t be treated less favourably, or put at a disadvantage, because of your race or ethnicity?  This is because Race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

“Race” can mean your colour, or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins.


This unfair treatment is called discrimination. There are several types of discrimination, including direct and indirect discrimination and harassment.


Direct discrimination is when you are treated worse than someone who is a different race to you, for instance, if someone refused to offer you a job because their other employees did not want to work with a person of your race.  Indirect discrimination is when an arrangement that affects everyone has an unfair effect on some people because of their race or ethnicity.  For instance, it would be indirect discrimination if a company says it only wishes to employ native English speakers, as people of other nationalities could not apply, even if they spoke perfect English. 


Harassment is another form of discrimination which is not allowed under equality law, and employers have a duty to protect their staff from harassment.  Harassment occurs when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded, so a black employee would have a claim for discrimination against an employer who failed to stop other colleagues from regularly making racist jokes in her presence. 


A difference in treatment may be justified in certain circumstances, for instance, when being of a particular race is an occupational requirement for a job, or when an employer is taking positive action in favour of an under-represented or disadvantaged racial group.  So for instance, a community worker helping Bangladeshi women might need to be from the Bangladeshi community, and it would be acceptable not to employ people of other nationalities. 


It’s important to know and understand equality law, but it can be complex.

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