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Race Discrimination in Employment and Training


Part II of the RRA deals with race discrimination in employment. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on grounds of race in any of the following ways:

  • Refusing to hire you or consider you for a job.
  • Offering you a job on less favourable terms than other people.
  • Refusing to promote you or transfer you to another job.
  • Refusing to make provision for you to be trained.
  • Giving you less favourable fringe benefits.
  • Putting you on short-time work, dismissing you or making you redundant.
The RRA covers both permanent and temporary jobs, whatever the size of the firm. It covers apprentices and trainees as well as other employees, partners in a firm of six or more partners (such as a solicitors’ firm), the police (who are not technically employees), subcontracted workers (such as building workers or night cleaners), and employment agencies.

Employers are made responsible for the unlawful acts of their employees when those acts have been done during the course of employment. The employer can avoid liability for the unlawful acts of employees if it can be shown that the acts complained of fell outside the scope of employment. Courts and tribunals must take a common-sense view as to what is meant by ‘in the course of employment’ in accordance with the layperson’s understanding of those words.

Employers can also avoid liability for their employees’ acts of discrimination if they can show that they took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent their employees from doing such unlawful discriminatory acts. Such steps might include the provision of equal opportunity training, ethnic monitoring of the workforce, the distribution of an equal opportunities policy statement and its implementation.

It is also unlawful for a person, including an employee, to aid another to do an unlawful act of discrimination. Thus, where an employee devises a plan to send a racially offensive card to an employee who is a member of a racial group and enlists the help of a colleague to carry out that plan, both the originator of the plan and the colleague may be guilty of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race.

It is unlawful for the Government to discriminate on racial grounds in appointing people to serve on public bodies. These provisions have also been extended by the RRAA 2000.

It is also unlawful for trade unions and professional associations to discriminate in any of the following ways:

  • Deciding who to admit to membership.
  • Refusing to let you join.
  • Only allowing you to join on less favourable terms.
  • Giving you fewer benefits, facilities or services or refusing to let you have any of these benefits (for example, legal services, representation in a dispute).
  • Expelling you or subjecting you to any other disadvantage.
Similarly, it is unlawful for any licensing body to discriminate on racial grounds in deciding who can have a licence. Examples of licensing bodies are the Law Society which licenses solicitors, the Director General of Fair Trading who licenses credit and hire businesses or the police who license taxi-drivers. Furthermore, whenever one of these bodies has to consider an applicant’s ‘good character’ before giving a licence, they will be able to take into account any evidence about previous unlawful race discrimination. So, for instance, magistrates who are renewing a publican’s licence should take account of any evidence that the publican or his or her employees had previously refused to serve ethnic minority groups.

The Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 extends the non-discrimination provisions of the RRA to the legal profession. Racial discrimination will be lawful where being a member of a particular racial group is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. This might apply where someone of a particular racial group is needed for reasons of ‘authenticity’ such as in restaurants, dramatic performances, or for artists’ or photographic modelling. This may also apply if the case involves employment of someone to provide personal services to a particular racial group, where someone of the same racial group can do the job most effectively.

The CRE has published a Code of Practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment, which can be obtained from the CRE. The Code of Practice sets out guidelines of good race relations practice and, although it is not enforceable in law, Employment Tribunals need to take its provisions into account.

Training

Part II of the RRA also deals with race discrimination in training. It is unlawful for any person who provides, or makes arrangements for the provision of, facilities for vocational training to discriminate against those to whom it provides training.

These organisations are, however, allowed to practise ‘positive discrimination’, where there have been no people of a particular racial group, or very few, doing a particular kind of work, either in the whole of Britain or in a region, in the previous twelve months. In this case they will be allowed to run training courses or provide facilities for that racial group only, or to encourage people from that group to take up a particular kind of work.

Employers will also be allowed to run training courses for a particular racial group only, or to encourage them to take up a particular kind of work, where there have been no people of that racial group, or very few, doing that kind of work in the firm during the previous twelve months.

Trade unions and professional organisations are also allowed to organise special training courses to encourage people from a particular racial group to hold posts within the organisation (for example, as shop stewards or officials) where there have been very few or no people from that group holding such posts in the previous twelve months.
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