11 July 2016
Tensions have been running high across the UK following the EU referendum result. Reports indicate that the country has seen an increase in the number of reported hate crimes and racist abuse.
Every year thousands of people are subjected to race discrimination at work and there is concern that the current political climate has added to the number of people who experience workplace bullying and harassment based on their race or nationality. Such treatment is unlawful under the Equality Act and can give rise to liability for both the employer and the individual perpetrator.
The referendum result has also ignited debate between those who voted different ways and these debates are also occurring in workplaces across the country. A belief or opinion about whether the UK should remain within the EU or leave it could well have protection as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act too. This means an individual should not be discriminated against or harassed simply for having or expressing that belief.
Employees are entitled to have differing opinions but how those opinions are expressed or manifested in the workplace requires care and sensitivity.
What to do if You Experience Harassment or Bullying at Work
If you do find yourself treated unfairly, called racist names at work , you do not have to put up with it. UK law provides protection against discrimination and harassment because of your race so that should you experience harassment or bullying based on where you are from, the colour of your skin or your beliefs you can make a discrimination at work claim.
The Equality Act prohibits less favourable treatment on the basis of “protected characteristics” which include your race, ethnicity, nationality, national origins, colour, religion and your philosophical beliefs. If you are threatened, bullied or excluded by colleagues on the basis of a protected characteristic at work it is your employer who has a duty to take steps to protect you from that harassment.
Businesses need to ensure they are acting quickly to protect their staff if harassment occurs and also taking proactive steps to reinforce their diversity and equality policies and prevent instances of bullying post-Brexit. This includes steps to prevent race discrimination against employees who have roots outside of the UK as well as protection for workers with differing philosophical beliefs. All are entitled to a working environment which is free of hostility and intimidation.
If you find yourself being bullied at work you can call the workplace discrimination lawyers at Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.
Harriet Bowtell is a senior employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon’s central London offices.