Racism and unconscious bias in the workplace – how to identify and prevent it

In the third of our equality and diversity focused webinars we discussed the impact of the Black Lives Matters movement.  This has undoubtedly raised awareness, emotion and a sense of empowerment to question the treatment of people of colour in our society today.  The issues of racial discrimination are not new but the level of perceived injustice and expressed emotion in society are heightened and palpable.  As we have commented before the boundaries of acceptability change over time and the impact of BLM has increased sensitivity and reduced acceptance of perceived racial discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 sets out the measures that can be applied and provides a framework for tackling racial discrimination (and other forms of discrimination).  So employers and business owners need to know and understand the protections that are afforded to employees, job seekers and others through the legislation.  They need to go beyond just understanding their responsibilities, by training and educating their employees and managers; reviewing policies and procedures; carrying out an audit of where they are with their policies and practices within their organisation.

There are many recorded benefits of having a diverse workforce, it is good for business, it is good morally and ethically and it provides good protection for your business.  Therefore you may need to start to think about proactive steps you can take to grow and develop a diverse workforce.  Perhaps by starting to gather ethnicity data to build a baseline metric which over time can be assessed and evaluated. Reviewing recruitment processes to ensure that you are reaching a proportionate sample of your possible population. Training recruiters to avoid bias and discrimination and recruit in their own persona. Considering gathering ethnicity pay gap information to examine whether there is a bias in your pay and salary structure.

How can you be an ally to Black Lives Matters?  Supporting the cause with more than just words, taking action that will deliver training and education to challenge systemic societal views. By supporting initiatives like 100 Black Interns which actively seeks to address the underrepresentation of black people in fund management. By taking early action on potential allegations of racial discriminatory behaviour and sharing stories of how BLM and other debates have impacted those from an ethnic background. As well as creating the environment in which issues and concerns can be talked about, addressed and managed (not swept under the carpet) including providing mental health support for those who have been adversely affected.

The legislation can provide a level of protection but our actions as employers, managers, colleagues could make a big difference – if we became an ally of choice and self determination.

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