In recent news we have seen the regrettable Benedict Cumberbatch make a public error whilst attempting to be honourable by highlight the lack of opportunities for black actors in Britain. Whilst drawing attention to the fact that this discrimination exists and is extremely important, Cumberbatch’s point was lost in the backlash of the outraged public when he used the word “coloured”. In today’s society, the word ‘coloured’ is regarded as a racist term, and in most cases, should be replaced with the term ‘black’. Although it was clear Cumberbatch had no racist intent, he was very quick to apologise for the racial offence caused by his error.
The lack of knowledge in the continuing debate about identity, discrimination and race is no uncommon blunder. Several other public figures including Alan Hansen and Jeremy Clarkson have also had to make public apologies for inappropriate, discriminatory remarks. Just like these celebrities, many of the UK’s ‘average Joe’s’ are not aware what term to use when referring to somebody of an ethnic origin. If an origin of birth is unknown, people tend to inappropriately depict a person by their shade or tone of skin.
So how can these mistakes be prevented in the workplace? One of the key steps is to educate your employees in The Equality Act 2010, which covers race discrimination, in common with several other strands of discrimination, prohibiting direct or indirect discrimination. It is also important to show that as an employer, you have policies in place to prevent discriminatory behaviour. Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment and Victimisation at Work Policy and Procedure is a detailed policy provided by myHRdept. It clearly lays out the forms that discrimination can take (direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation) and identifies all the forms of illegal discrimination, and the steps that an employer must take to ensure they protect their workforce from discrimination, and themselves from vicarious liability for discrimination claims.
Although these policies and procedures are in place, and employers can prove that they are actively working to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, definitions will undoubtedly continue to change, causing people to stop and think about words to describe different racial backgrounds. With the use of slang and ‘banter’ becoming increasingly present in most working environments, employers need to keep an ear to the ground and correct any politically incorrect language which could result in a claim of racial discrimination.
For further information on dealing with race, or any other form of discrimination, contact ustoday.
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