Major rise in race discrimination claims in 2020

Employment tribunals in the UK saw a 48% rise in the number of race discrimination claims in 2020, according to new data stemming from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Statistics from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), which followed the FOI request from Financial News, showed that there were 3,641 employment tribunal cases with the jurisdiction code for race discrimination last year.

It represents an upwards trends of race discrimination cases, rising from 2,464 cases in 2019 to 2,948 cases in 2018, and 2,036 cases in 2017.

Financial News said 1,734 such cases had so far been recorded during 2021, up to 30 June.

Sarah Garth, employment partner at Keystone Law, said the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the importance of eradicating race discrimination in all areas.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “It’s difficult to say whether there is more discrimination occurring or not, but I definitely think that people feel more comfortable raising the issue, and confident that they’re going to be protected and supported when they raise it, and these are probably the main drivers for the increase in the number of people making complaints.”

Garth said organisations should review their equal opportunities policies and that larger businesses could also consider appointing specific equal opportunities officers to deal with diversity issues.

“Most employers will already have policies in place, however, businesses need to go further than just having a policy. It’s about re-emphasising the importance of it throughout the business.

“The culture of the business is absolutely critical, because if from the top down the message is that discrimination will not be tolerated and employees are safe raising any issues, that will resonate down to everybody throughout the organisation.

She also argued for companies to provide refresher training on discrimination issues and harassment every year to ensure it is at the forefront of everyone’s minds plus be mindful of the role remote work has in discrimination.

Garth added: “With employees working much more from home, it is very important to remind them that the same standards of behaviour are expected even though they may not be in the office.

“It can also be difficult for managers to spot potential conflicts and issues in their team when they are not all in the office at the same time. Managers can help avoid this by having regular one-to-ones with individuals in their team and having an ‘open door’ for issues or concerns to be raised.”