The requirement for employers, and others, not to discriminate on racial grounds is set out in the Equality Act 2010. This means it is a breach of the law for an employer to treat an employee differently and unfavourably because of his or her race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.
The law identifies discrimination that is ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’. ‘Direct discrimination’ is the use of an employee’s racial or ethnic origin as a reason to treat him or her unfavourably. ‘Indirect discrimination’ is the use of an irrelevant selection criterion that unfavourably impacts on a particular racial group.
The law also proscribes harassment of employees due to their race, and also victimisation of employees on the basis that they have made or have supported a race discrimination complaint.
Selection based on race or ethnicity is allowable in very limited circumstances. The ethnic origin of an employee may be relevant as an ‘occupational requirement’ such as the requirement for a black actor. Nonetheless, employers should put in place policies that prevent discrimination in recruitment, promotion, disciplinary action, determining pay, and in training and development.