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Race discrimination

All teachers and educational professionals have specific protection from discrimination at work on grounds of race under the Equality Act 2010. 

Discrimination claim time limits

You are protected regardless of your race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origins. Discrimination because you are perceived as belonging to a particular racial group, or because you associate with someone who belongs to a particular racial group, will be unlawful. You are protected whether you are permanent, fixed-term, full-time, part-time, supply or agency.

Your colleagues, managers and governors are prohibited from discriminating against you. If you are an agency worker on a day-to-day or longer term contract, your agency and the hirers for whom you are working are prohibited from discriminating against you.

What race discrimination is

Treating you less favourably than another colleague in similar circumstances on grounds of race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origins would be direct race discrimination.

An employer might apply to all staff a workplace policy or practice that you and other workers of the same racial group cannot comply with because of your racial group. This would be indirect race discrimination if it puts you at a disadvantage, unless the employer could justify the impact of the policy or practice.

Some discrimination is on grounds of religion and race. The courts extended the definition of race discrimination to protect workers who are Jewish, Sikh or Travellers. It is likely that workers with these protected characteristics will continue to be protected from less favourable treatment on grounds of both race and religion or belief. 

The definition of race has not been extended to protect workers who follow other religions such as Christianity or Islam. All workers, including Christians and Muslims, now have specific protection at work from discrimination at work on grounds of religion, religious belief, philosophical belief, or lack of religion or belief under the Equality Act 2010.

When are you protected

You are protected from race discrimination before, during and after your employment. There should be no unlawful discrimination in recruitment including advertisements, shortlisting and interview procedures; pay including pensions; terms and conditions of employment; access to training; opportunities for promotion; transfers; dismissals; and after your employment has ended, for example, in the provision of references. 

What is covered

Refusing to appoint a teacher of Pakistani origin to a deputy head post in an all-white school, due to concerns about parents’ racial prejudices, would be race discrimination.

Imposing a more severe disciplinary penalty on a black teacher than a white teacher for similar conduct in similar circumstances is likely to amount to direct race discrimination.

The disproportionate use of capability procedures against black or minority ethnic teachers could be indirect race discrimination. Workplace procedures must be applied to teachers objectively and consistently – processes and outcomes must be free from discrimination.

Overseas trained teachers would not be able to meet a requirement that all applicants for a teaching post have a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), as it is a UK qualification. Unless an employer can objectively justify the need for a UK qualification, this would be indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality and race.

Subjecting a teacher or educational professional to verbal or physical racial harassment in the workplace would be unlawful. 

What is not covered

Treatment that is nothing to do with race, which the employer can show is wholly and genuinely for a non-discriminatory reason, or treatment which lawfully can be justified by the employer, will not be unlawful. Refusing you permission to attend a training course, because the course is considered too expensive and not relevant to your role, would not be unlawful provided the employer's decision was consistent with decisions made in respect of other workers in the same role as you. Treatment that you might feel is unfair will not necessarily be discriminatory.

Employers may use 'positive action' to encourage applications for vacancies from groups of people who are under-represented in the workforce or at a particular grade in the workforce. Employers may use ‘tie-break’ provisions to appoint an individual from an under-represented group if two candidates are as qualified as each other for a post. Contact the union if you need advice on an employer's use of positive action.

Employers sometimes specify that it is an occupational requirement that a post is held by an individual with a particular equality characteristic. This option is rarely used in the education sector but contact the union if you think that it has been used inappropriately to your disadvantage. 

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Tackling discrimination

What to do if you think that you have been discriminated against.

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