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Race and Ethnic Diversity

Group hands on top of each other of diverse multi-ethnic and multicultural people.

Legislation protects a number of groups from discrimination based upon a range of characteristics including race, ethnicity, and national origin.

Race diversity should be part of the normal team dynamic. Everyone needs to get on together and accommodate each other’s different behavior and cultural backgrounds. Issues can arise when someone of a different race joins a team. If a team has been together a while, it is natural for there to be some adjustment time. But you need to watch out for inappropriate behavior from the team.

Dress codes

Some organizations have jobs which necessitate the worker having a uniform. Some have less formal dress codes but insist on a certain type of dress during working hours. Where a dress code places workers of a certain race at a particular disadvantage it may amount to indirect discrimination: a rule banning headgear would indirectly discriminate against Sikhs and orthodox Jews, both ethnic groups being required to adopt specific types of headwear. Employers should try and accommodate individual choices where possible, but if they have a business reason for insisting on a certain code of dress then workers must be prepared to conform to the policy.

Some people may want to wear a type of clothing that relates to their culture. You may have to make exceptions to your policies where people request it. However, if you can make the exception, you should be considering whether your requirements are unnecessarily restrictive. You can require say, conventional dress, without dictating what this might be. You will, though, be required to assess whether you think an individual’s dress is conventional. You may differentiate on what is conventional for men and for women. You should be clear about requirements for smart dress – this may mean a jacket for men, but not for women, or not for men who wish to wear ethnic dress, which would be considered smart in their culture.

You should also have a clear policy on jewelry, tattoos, piercings etc., ensuring that the needs of your business are paramount in determining what is allowable. Do not impose unreasonable restrictions which cannot be shown to relate to a legitimate aim of the organization.

Here’s an article on the protected groups (including race) in Japan and how we should respect their rights as employees.

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