Under the Equality Act 2010, race is a protected characteristic, and you must not therefore be discriminated against because of your race.
Race can mean your colour, or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins, which may not be the same as your current nationality. For example, you may have Chinese national origins and be living in Britain with a British passport.
Race also covers ethnic and racial groups. This means a group of people who all share the same protected characteristic of ethnicity or race. A racial group can be made up of two or more distinct racial groups, for example black Britons, British Asians, British Sikhs, British Jews, Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers.
You may be discriminated against because of one or more aspects of your race, for example people born in Britain to Jewish parents could be discriminated against because they are British citizens, and/or because of their Jewish heritage – either is unlawful.
Circumstances when being treated differently due to race is lawful
A difference in treatment may be lawful in employment situations if:
- Belonging to a particular race is essential for the job. This is called an occupational requirement. For example, an organisation wants to recruit a support worker for a domestic violence advice service for black women. The organisation can say that it only wants to employ someone who is black or from a minority ethnic group.
- An organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop people in a racial group that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity. For example, an employer gets hardly any applicants for its graduate recruitment programme from African candidates, so it sets up a work experience and mentoring programme for African students to encourage them into the industry. Queen Mary became a signatory of the Race Equality Charter Mark (REC) in July 2018. A requirement of membership is that the university apply for an award within 3 years i.e. by2021.The REC provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students. Member institutions develop initiatives and solutions for action, and can apply for a Bronze or Silver REC award, depending on their level of progress.
- REC is underpinned by five fundamental guiding principles.
- Run by Advance HE, the REC aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.