Discrimination centred on caste – or social standing in the Hindu and Sikh communities – may be present in UK workforces, a government peer has warned.
Baroness Glenys Thornton said evidence of the discrimination may exist and has called for more research to be done into its possible occurrence.
The call came as the House of Lords accepted an amendment to the Equality Bill paving the way for such discrimination to be made illegal if it is found to be a problem.
Government ministers previously said they did not think people from lower castes were treated unfairly in the workplace, the BBC has reported.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research will now present its research on caste discrimination in the UK in July or August.
Thornton said: “We have looked for evidence of caste discrimination and we now think that evidence may exist, which is why we have now commissioned the research.
“The proportionate thing is to take the power to deal with that discrimination if and when that evidence is produced.”
Liberal Democrat peer Eric Avebury, who tabled the amendment, said he thought the research would “conclusively prove that caste discrimination does occur in the fields covered by the Bill”.
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, described the decision to commission research as “a historic moment”.
He said: “The blight of caste discrimination, under which millions in India are regarded as ‘untouchable’, has spread to this country virtually unnoticed.”