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The information on this website is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your rights, or legal advice about what action to take, please contact an adviser or solicitor.

What is Racial Discrimination?

Racial discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin. Discrimination could occur at work, school or college; when buying goods or services; when dealing with the authorities; or when buying or renting a property.

Types of Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination can take many forms but there are four defined types of discrimination:

Direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably because of their race or colour.

Indirect discrimination – having a policy or practice which puts people of a certain race at a disadvantage compared with others. For example, advertising a job that requires candidates to have English as their first language.

Victimisation – being treated unfairly as a result of making a complaint of racial discrimination, or giving evidence when somebody else complains of racial discrimination.

Harassment – This occurs when a person feels intimidated, humiliated, degraded or offended by another person’s conduct regarding their race. An example of this would be when someone makes jokes about a person’s race that they find offensive.

Racial discrimination in various settings

Racial discrimination in the workplace

In is unlawful for any employer to discriminate against an employee or trainee on racial grounds unless there is a ‘genuine occupational requirement’. The law covers the following aspects of employment:

Recruitment and selection



Pay and benefits

Redundancy and dismissal

Terms and conditions

If you feel that you have been discriminated against at work because of your race, you must firstly raise a written grievance with your employer. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, you can then take the matter to an employment tribunal.

Citizens Advice: What are the different types of discrimination?