MiP MiP

The union for health and care managers

Home  >  News & Campaigns  >  Features  >  Legal Eye: Race discrimination complaints
Saturday 24 June 2017

Dealing with race discrimination complaints

By Rakesh Patel

Here’s what you need to know about your legal responsibilities as a manager when handling race discrimination complaints from staff.

While we hope it never occurs, some MiP members will have to investigate allegations of race discrimination or sit on grievance panels adjudicating on race discrimination complaints. Unfortunately, complaints like these do happen and it is important that managers are aware of how they should deal with it, the protocols to follow and the pitfalls to look out for.

Under the Equality Act 2010, 'protected characteristics', such as race, are protected from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. This means that employees cannot be discriminated against because of their race in the workplace – whether in recruitment or promotion, during training, or in dismissal and redundancy processes. Members should also be aware that the law does not only apply to 'employees' as narrowly defined. Interns, apprentices and self-employed contractors are also covered.

Public sector bodies, including the NHS, are under a duty to consider equality when making all decisions on service delivery and employment. This means that public bodies must give due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups
  • foster good relations between people from different groups

If an employee makes a claim of race discrimination, it is vital that the complaint is dealt with seriously and promptly. Many employees may 'suffer in silence' for a period of time if they feel they have been discriminated against, so it is important that, when and if they do come forward, there is no hesitation in investigating the issue. Once a complaint has been made, it is important to be receptive to the employee and make a note of every piece of information given. This can give you a clear picture of the issue in hand and makes it easier to pass on the information to the relevant managers.

You should be seeking advice from HR professionals in your organisation at an early stage. They should have the expertise on how to deal with the complaint and what to do next. It is important there is no delay in progressing a complaint as inaction can lead to further problems and could exacerbate the situation. It should be reported to the most senior level of management possible.

Managers should always keep records of the procedures followed in dealing with the complaint and how quickly it has been progressed. If an employee feels their grievance has not been handled fairly, these records could be an important piece of evidence in the event of an employment tribunal.

While it can be hard for an employee to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their race, a complaint which is not dealt with correctly may affect relations between the employee and their employer and could influence the tribunal proceedings and the final decision.

Managers should be aware of the damage a finding of discrimination can do to individuals and organisations. If a complaint is upheld in an employment tribunal and an individual is found to have been discriminatory, this will have a direct effect on the reputation of both the individual and the organisation involved. There is also no legal limit on the compensation that can be awarded in discrimination cases.

Litigation can be extremely costly, time consuming and stressful for all concerned. Therefore where possible, employers may wish to consider mediation to resolve matters. Obviously, this will only be fruitful if the employee is open to it. When effective, mediation can result in a mutually agreed outcome that provides the employee with the assurances and resolution they are seeking. However, if a successful mediation cannot be achieved, senior management will advise on the next stage of the process and the employee should be informed in writing.

In summary, all claims of race discrimination should be dealt with promptly and professionally, and by following your organisation's approved processes. Only by following the correct procedures can the best outcome be reached.

Rakesh Patel is head of employment rights strategy at Thompsons Solicitors. Legal Eye does not offer legal advice on individual cases. MiP members in need of personal advice should immediately contact their MiP rep or national officer.

If you'd like to read more from MiP, sign up to receive our free monthly emails – we’ll keep you up to date on news and events in health and care management

Scene from Pride Festival 2019 Unsplash

Previewing MiP's webinar in September, we speak to UNISON’s Carola Towle and MiP national committee member Anthony Nicholls about tackling descrimination and creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces.

20 August 2021 | By Alison Moore
Feature
Jon Restell portrait 2021

England’s uplifting performance at Euro 2020 shows how a culture of openness, honesty and shared purpose can deliver rich results. As managers, we can all learn from the team building skills of Gareth Southgate and his backroom staff.

02 August 2021 | By Jon Restell
Leading Edge
iwd-2021-banner-thumb

Homeworking during the pandemic has been a mixed blessing for many women managers. MiP's International Women's Day webinar examined how we can shape the future of flexible working, so it works for women as well as their employers.

23 March 2021 | By Alison Moore
MiP at work

MiP has welcomed new government plans to speed up the devolution of health and care, and put England’s embryonic integrated care systems on a firm statutory footing.

05 January 2021 | By Mercedes Broadbent
Analysis & opinion
News_2020-11-06_Summit_Gender
Karen Bonner, Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust

05 November 2020 | By Craig Ryan
News
The panel discussing the 'new normal' (clockwise from top left): Habib Naqvi, Jon Restell, Rebecca Smith; Christine McAnea and David Cain.
Chair of the North East London Integrated Care System Marie Gabriel

Black Lives Still Matter: Marie Gabriel, chair of the North East London Integrated Care System.

30 October 2020 | By Marie Gabriel
Feature
NHS England & NHS Improvement community care improvement adviser Yvonne Richards

Black Lives Still Matter: Yvonne Richards, community care improvement adviser, NHS England & NHS Improvement

30 October 2020 | By Yvonne Richards
Feature
Research Fellow at Middlesex University Business School Roger Kline

The NHS can’t afford unfair recruitment and promotion processes that discriminate against BAME people. We need a new evidence-based approach that focuses on leadership, accountability and removing bias from the system.

28 October 2020 | By Roger Kline
Feature
123...>>
Copyright © 2021 MiP