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Hundreds of thousands of black and minority ethnic employees victims of racism at work

racism  Mar 27, 2022; Philadelphia, PA, USA; St. Peters Peacocks player wears a Black Lives Matter t-shirt before the finals of the East regional of the men's college basketball NCAA Tournament against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports
The TUC said the government must change law to prevent ‘disgraceful’ racism at work. Photo: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports (USA TODAY USPW / reuters)

Two in five (41%) Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have faced racism at work in the last five years but most do not report it.

Staff said that discrimination ranges from racist bullying and harassment to more “hidden” racism like jokes, stereotypes or being treated differently at work.

The figures are even higher among younger workers, with more than half (52%) of BME employees aged 25 to 34 old experiencing racism at work, according to a report by TUC.

However, only 1 in 5 (19%) of those who have experienced harassment told the TUC that they had reported the most recent incident to their employer.

More than 2 in 5 (44%) didn’t report the incident because they didn’t believe it would be taken seriously, and 1 in 4 (25%) told the TUC that they were worried about the impact on their working relationship with colleagues.

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Of those who did report an incident, nearly half (48%) were not satisfied with how it was handled.

Racist jokes or “banter”, and people using stereotypes or commenting on their appearance, affected more than a quarter of the respondents.

And one in five people said they have been bullied or harassed at work, and the same amount have had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence.

With 3.9 million BME employees across the nation, the TUC said there could be hundreds of thousands of workers facing discrimination that goes unreported or unaddressed.

Mary, a black Caribbean lecturer from the South West of England – and whose name has been changed for anonymity – told the TUC that she had experienced racist abuse from members of staff and students.

She said: “I drive a nice car and one member of staff asked me if I was a drug dealer, because how else could I afford to drive the car I drive? I have been asked on numerous occasions if people can touch my hair. I have been sunburnt, and somebody has said to me: “how on earth can you be sunburnt when you’re Black already?”. I have been called a N*** on more than one occasion.”

However, when she reported incidents to management it was shrugged off as being a consequence of living in a predominately white area.

Meanwhile, a British-Bangladeshi supermarket worker in north-west England said he suffered systemic racism by being treated differently from other colleagues – such as being given unrealistic tasks without any support.

He said: “One manager admitted to me that when he was young an Asian boy had taken a football off him and punched him in the face, and since then he had a negative mindset towards all Asian people. I made the managers aware that no one deserves to be treated unfairly because of their background or religious beliefs and they as managers have the responsibility of making sure that the workplace is fair and inclusive for everyone.”

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The TUC has called on government ministers to change the law so employers are more responsible for protecting employees and preventing workplace racism.

The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This report lifts the lid on racism in UK workplaces.

“It’s disgraceful that in 2022 racism still determines who gets hired, trained, promoted – and who gets demoted and dismissed.

“This report must be a wake-up call. Ministers need to change the law so that employers are responsible for protecting their workers and preventing racism at work.

“And employers must be clear they have a zero-tolerance policy towards racism – and that they will support all staff who raise concerns about racism or who are subjected to racial abuse.”

The TUC commissioned researchers at Number Cruncher Politics to poll 1,750 BME workers in the UK and conduct focus group interviews to shine a light on the scale of racism across Britain.

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