Race (including caste) discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from being discriminated against because of your race.

'Race' has a range of meanings. It could refer to your colour or your nationality, including your citizenship. It could mean your ethnic or national origins, which may differ from your current nationality. For example, you may have Bangladeshi national origins, but live in Britain with a British passport.

Race also covers ethnic and racial groups. A 'racial group' can itself include two or more distinct racial groups – for example, black Britons or British Asians.

There are situations in which an employer may lawfully treat you differently. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission says this could be when:

  • belonging to a particular race is essential for the job, ie it is an 'occupational requirement'. For example, an employer needing a support worker for a domestic violence advice service for South Asian women is allowed to advertise for recruits only with South Asian origins.
  • an organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop people in a racial group that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity. For example, a broadcaster gets hardly any applicants for its graduate recruitment programme from Black Caribbean candidates. It could set up a work experience and mentoring programme for Black Caribbean students to encourage them into the industry.

You may suffer race discrimination on more than one ground. For example, if you are Pakistani and being mistreated at work, you may be discriminated against on the grounds of colour, nationality, ethnicity and national origin all at the same time. If your ethnic origins are intimately connected to your religion or beliefs – for example, if you are of Pakistani origin and Muslim faith - you may also find yourself being discriminated against on the grounds of this protected characteristic.

Race can include caste, the system that divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups according to factors such as wealth, occupation and ethnicity.