Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on grounds of race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin when selecting someone for a job and also when:
- Selecting for promotion;
- Provision of benefits, including training;
- Dismissing an employee;
- Selecting employees for redundancy.
Indirect racial discrimination
Indirect discrimination occurs when:
- The selection process places members of a particular ethnic group at a disadvantage for reasons that are not relevant to the job (for instance requiring the completion of an application form where reading and writing English is not a job requirement);
- The employer imposes unnecessary conditions of employment that disadvantages members of a particular ethnic group;
- Fewer workers of one race can meet the conditions or requirements of the position;
- Workers from a particular ethnic group are put at a disadvantage.
Employees may make a complaint of discrimination regardless of length of continuous employment.
Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against may make a complaint against their employer at an employment tribunal. People who apply for a job and feel the reason they were discounted was because of their race may also make a complaint to a tribunal. The scope of the Act extends to prevent 'victimisation' of employees who have made a complaint against their employer on the basis of racial discrimination. Victimisation could include passing an employee over for promotion because he or she has made a complaint in the past or giving an ex-employee a bad reference because he or she made a complaint.
'Positive' discrimination, where an employer recruits a member of a particular ethnic origin is also unlawful. However, employers can take 'positive action' to attract applications from members of ethnic groups that are under-represented in the workforce. This could be by advertising the position in publications known to have a wide readership within the under-represented ethnic group. However, the decision to select a particular candidate must still be based on merit alone.