Two in five BME workers have faced racism at work in the last five years, report says

Ministers must change law to prevent racism in workplaces, trade bodies say. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Two in five workers from black and other minority ethnic backgrounds (BME) have faced racism at work in the past five years, a new report has found.

Hundreds of thousands of black and minority ethnic employees in the UK could be at risk of racist treatment and discrimination at work, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned.

Staff said that discrimination ranges from racist bullying and harassment to more “hidden” racism like jokes, stereotypes or being treated differently at work.

The TUC has called on government ministers to change the law so employers are more responsible for protecting employees and preventing workplace racism.

The TUC commissioned researchers at Number Cruncher Politics to poll 1,750 BME workers in the UK and conduct focus group interviews to shine a light on the scale of racism across Britain.

With 3.9 million BME employees across the nation, the TUC said there could be hundreds of thousands of workers facing discrimination that goes unreported or unaddressed.

More than half of people surveyed who were aged between 24 and 34 said they have faced racism at work in the last five years – rising to 58% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Racist jokes or “banter”, and people using stereotypes or commenting on their appearance, affected more than a quarter of the respondents.

And one in five people said they have been bullied or harassed at work, and the same amount have had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence.

The vast majority of people who have been subject to harassment have not told their employer, the TUC said.

This is largely because of fears of not being taken seriously or concerns about how it will affect working relationships with colleagues.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “This report lifts the lid on racism in UK workplaces.

“It shines a light on the enormous scale of structural and institutional discrimination BME workers face.

“Many told us they experienced racist bullying, harassment – and worse. And alarmingly, the vast majority did not report this to their employer.

“Others said ‘hidden’ institutional racism affected their day-to-day working life, from not getting training and promotion opportunities to being given less popular shifts and holidays.

“It’s disgraceful that in 2022 racism still determines who gets hired, trained, promoted – and who gets demoted and dismissed.

“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."

The TUC added that improving workers’ rights would help to alleviate the issue because BME workers are significantly more likely to experience insecure and poor-quality work – such as by banning zero-hours contracts.

Compulsory ethnicity pay gap reporting should be introduced alongside action plans from employers to close their pay gaps, the TUC said.

A government spokesman said: “Our Inclusive Britain Action Plan sets out plans to build a fairer and more inclusive society, including promoting fairness in the workplace and action to tackle the ethnicity pay gap.”