Two out of five workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds experience racism at work, according to research from the TUC.
Younger black and ethnic minority workers are more likely to have experienced instances of racist banter, jokes, or even bullying and harassment. More than half (52%) between the ages of 25 to 34 reported this to be the case.
Given that there are 3.9 million black and ethnic minority workers in the UK workforce, the TUC argues that hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of racist treatment and discrimination at work.
Over a quarter (27%) of those surveyed by the TUC for its Still Rigged: Racism in the UK Labour Market 2022 report said they had witnessed banter or racist jokes at work in the last five years. One in five said remarks were directed at them or made in their presence.
Twenty-six percent said they were made to feel uncomfortable at work because colleagues were using racial stereotypes or making comments about their appearance.
Race at work
Most incidents of racist behaviour came from colleagues, according to the TUC’s research. However, one in six were made by a manager or someone else with direct authority. In 15% of cases, it was a customer, client or patient.
Only around a fifth (19%) of employees reported an incident to their employer, the TUC found. Forty-four percent did not report because they didn’t feel their complaint would be taken seriously – of those who did, 48% were not happy with how it was handled. In a small proportion of cases (7%), workers felt it made the situation worse.
Underlying racism at work has long-term impacts for many employees, according to the TUC. Eight percent left their job as a result of what they experienced, while 31% said it had left a negative impact on their mental health. Around a quarter said they would have left their role but were forced to stay due to financial and other factors.
The TUC also uncovered evidence of discrimination consistent with what it calls “hidden” institutional racism:
- 14% of black and ethnic minority workers said they had experienced unfair criticism in the last five years
- 11% said they were given an unfair performance assessment
- 8% said they were unfairly disciplined
- 7% said they had been subject to excessive surveillance or scrutiny
- 12% said they were denied promotions
- 12% felt they were given harder or less popular work than white colleagues
- 9% said their requests for training had been turned down.
TUC anti-racism taskforce lead Patrick Roach said racial injustice at work is “damaging lives” and holding back economic recovery.
“This report delivers further damning evidence of a labour market that is unequal, unfair and highly discriminatory,” he said.
“Despite 50 years of legislation to outlaw race discrimination at work, the situation facing black workers today appears to be going from bad to worse.”
The TUC has called for the government to improve workers’ rights as doing so could benefit black and ethnic minority employees. For example, it advocates banning zero-hours contracts, which are disproportionately taken by non-white workers.
It also wants the government to ensure that there are “swift and effective” penalties in place when workers experience racism, and introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said the report “shines a light on the enormous scale of structural and institutional discrimination” black and ethnic minority workers face.
“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,” she said.
“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.”