Standalone Accessible Element

Race and Ethnic Diversity


Race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. Within the Act, race means colour, nationality, citizenship, ethnic origin and national origin. Ethnic origin is only covered where the person’s ethnicity is part of a recognised ethnic group.

Recognised ethnic groups include but are not limited to:

  • Sikhs
  • Jews
  • Romany Gypsies
  • Irish Travellers
  • Scottish Gypsies
  • Scottish Travellers

Race diversity should be part of the normal team dynamic. Everyone needs to get on together and accommodate each other’s different behaviour and approach. 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 behaviour from the team.

Dress codes

Some organisations have jobs which necessitate the worker having a uniform. Some have less formal dress codes, but insist on a certain type 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 jewellery, 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 organisation.

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