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Racial Discrimination

The information on this website is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your rights, or legal advice about what action to take, please contact an adviser or solicitor.

What is Racial Discrimination?

Racial discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin. Discrimination could occur at work, school or college; when buying goods or services; when dealing with the authorities; or when buying or renting a property.

Types of Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination can take many forms but there are four defined types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination  treating someone less favourably because of their race or colour.
  • Indirect discrimination  having a policy or practice which puts people of a certain race at a disadvantage compared with others. For example, advertising a job that requires candidates to have English as their first language.
  • Victimisation  being treated unfairly as a result of making a complaint of racial discrimination, or giving evidence when somebody else complains of racial discrimination.
  • Harassment  This occurs when a person feels intimidated, humiliated, degraded or offended by another person’s conduct regarding their race. An example of this would be when someone makes jokes about a person’s race that they find offensive.

Racial discrimination in various settings

Racial discrimination in the workplace

In is unlawful for any employer to discriminate against an employee or trainee on racial grounds unless there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. The law covers the following aspects of employment:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Pay and benefits
  • Redundancy and dismissal
  • Terms and conditions

If you feel that you have been discriminated against at work because of your race, you must firstly raise a written grievance with your employer. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, you can then take the matter to an employment tribunal.

Citizens Advice have a helpful factsheet about racial discrimination at work.

Racial discrimination in consumer products and services

It is unlawful for anyone providing goods, facilities or services in the UK to discriminate on grounds of race. This could be by refusing to provide them, or by providing them on less favourable terms. This is the case whether the service or product is provided for payment or is free of charge.

For further information and advice, visit the Citizen Advice website


Racial discrimination in housing

In most circumstances, it is unlawful for a person or organisation to discriminate on grounds of race when selling or renting a property. It also unlawful for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant once the property is occupied.

Useful organisations

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) aims to improve organisations through better employment relations. They provide information, independent advice, training and work with staff to solve problems and improve performance.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and protect human rights.

Liberty offers a free human rights advice service to members of the public. They can provide advice and information on queries relating to human rights law, but are unable to assist with general legal queries.

The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) is a helpline that advises and assists individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights.

Equally Ours contains information about voluntary, statutory or umbrella organisations working on equality and human rights issues locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Last updated: September 7, 2021