Race discrimination claims that reached employment tribunals in 2020 rose by about a third, newly released figures reveal.
Responding to a freedom of information request, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) reported that there were 3,641 employment tribunal cases for race discrimination last year.
This represents a 79 percentage point increase on the figure for 2017 (2,036 cases), a 23 point increase on 2018’s figure (2,948) and a 48 percentage point rise on the figure for 2019 (2,464).
So far in 2021 (1 January to 30 June) there have been 1,734 cases, indicating that a similar total to that of 2020 could be reached.
The figures were first published by the Financial News website earlier this week.
For Sarah Garth, employment partner at Keystone Law, the rise in race discrimination proceedings was a reflection of the heightened concerns over the treatment of ethnic minorities in the workplace during Covid and the widespread revulsion and anger over the killings of innocent black people in the US by police and others.
She said: “The Black Lives Matter movement has quite rightly highlighted the importance of eradicating race discrimination in all areas including the workplace and it is no doubt a significant factor leading to the surge in claims. We saw a similar surge in sex discrimination claims following the #MeToo movement.”
Garth added that senior leaders in organisations had a key role to play in minimising racial discrimination within businesses: “Employers can reduce the risk of claims by ensuring they have a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. This message should come from senior management to set the right culture throughout the business and should apply not only during the working relationship but also during the job application process.
“Everyone should be made aware of the zero-tolerance approach when they join their organisations and should be reminded of it frequently. It should apply in all circumstances including in online communication between employees. While employees are not necessarily in the office at the moment, it does not mean that organisations can ignore discrimination expressed online.”
Garth advised organisations to review their recruitment and promotion procedures to ensure they were fair. They should also provide regular anti-discrimination training, she said.
Tribunal figures for first quarter 2021
As for employment tribunal figures as a whole (for all types of cases), there were 9,100 single claims were submitted in the first quarter of 2021, a 13% decrease on the same period in 2020, Ministry of Justice figures reveal. Tribunals disposed of 11,000 claims from January to March 2021 – down 14% on the same period in 2020. The number of outstanding claims is 44,000 – a 39% increase from the same quarter the previous year.
There were about 15,000 multiple claims, a 14% increase on the same quarter last year.
Unfair dismissals are the most common reasons behind claims overall – with a sharp rise in cases expected later this year with the end of furlough on 30 September.
In January to March 2021, 24% of disposals were Acas conciliated settlements (the most common outcome this quarter), 18% were withdrawn, 17% were dismissed upon withdrawal, 11% were successful at hearing and 9% were struck out (not at a hearing).