Race Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) people are legally protected against discrimination due to their race. This includes their skin colour, nationality, or ethnic origins.

It covers employment, education, housing, advertising, the provision of goods and services, and any activity carried out by a public authority such as the police, prisons, the NHS, local authorities and government departments.

Types of discrimination

Direct discrimination

This is when a person is treated less favourably than someone else would be in the same situation simply because of their race. The less favourable treatment could be because of the person’s actual race, their perceived race, or the race of someone they associate with.

Indirect discrimination

This occurs if a policy, practice or rule applies to everybody but adversely affects people of a particular race.

Indirect race discrimination can be justified in certain circumstances if the organisation or employer can show the discrimination happened as ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.


Harassment is where someone behaves in such a way that makes a person feel humiliated, offended or degraded because of their race.


This occurs when an individual is treated badly because they have made a complaint of race discrimination under EqA 2010. It can also crop up if they are supporting someone who has complained of race discrimination.


An employer might be allowed by law to positively discriminate on the grounds of race if:

  • Being part of specific race is crucial for the job. This is known as an occupational requirement.
  • An organisation is seeking to encourage or develop people in a racial group that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity.


If you are racially discriminated against at work, you can take your case to an employment tribunal. The tribunal can:

  • Make a declaration, setting out the rights of the parties;
  • Award compensation (unlike in cases of unfair dismissal, there is no capped limit for race discrimination);
  • Make a recommendation of the steps the employer should take to stop or minimise the discrimination.
Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.