Employees are protected during their employment and, indeed, on termination of their employment, against unfair treatment on racial grounds. Racial grounds include grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins.
The legislation affords protection against direct racial discrimination, indirect racial discrimination or discrimination by way of victimisation.
There are a number of general exceptions from liability under the legislation and employers also have the ability to argue that the employment of an individual of a particular race constitutes a genuine occupational qualification e.g. a woman in a woman's refuge.
During employment, employees can argue unfair treatment in respect of any aspect of their terms and conditions of employment. A common area is equality of opportunity for promotion within the business, but there is a case law to cover almost every aspect of the employment contract and alleged unlawful discrimination in relation to the benefits afforded to different racial groups by employers.
Employees who complain of racial discrimination can complain to an Employment Tribunal during their employment.
The remedies for unfair treatment include injury to feelings but in more serious cases, employees can obtain, what are termed, aggravated damages or exemplary damages. There is no upper limit on the awards available to an Employment Tribunal of cases in racial discrimination. Employers are expected to have in place a clearly stated policy on equal opportunities generally and in particular, how they approach the treatment at work of different racial groups. This policy is particularly important in demonstrating how seriously the employer treats the issue of the avoidance of discrimination.
Employees can also ask for answers to a range of questions relating to the allegation of racial discrimination via a questionnaire. Employer's replies to the questionnaire do have evidential value and it is, therefore, essential that all replies are carefully and thoroughly constructed, which employers are encourage to take specific advice and assistance with.