Combatting racist abuse in the workplace - TUC Guide

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This TUC guide aims to support union reps to combat racist abuse in the workplace.

Following the June referendum on UK membership of the EU there has been a significant increase in reported hate crimes. The threats and abuse have not been limited to EU migrants in the UK but also towards non-EU migrants and British born Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people.

The Metropolitan Police reported a 50% increase in recorded incidents in the week after the referendum, while the National Police Chiefs Council said there had been a 57% rise in hate crimes in the first three days after the vote. Within a month of the referendum there had been more than 6,000 reports of hate crime to police.

Anecdotal evidence from migrants and British BME people indicate that there has also been an increase in other forms of abuse, such as on social media, which often go unreported.

Racist violence, abuse and harassment are not new and did not suddenly appear during or after the referendum on EU membership. However, it appears that the negative way that migrants were portrayed in the campaign has given confidence to some with racist attitudes to voice their view publicly. It has also led to a growth in visibility of the far right.

Even before the referendum was called,  racist incidents were increasing.

Anti-Semitic incidents and incidents aimed at Muslims have both increased in the past few years. According  to a Home Office report, there was an 15% increase in reported hate crimes based on race in the year 2014/15 compared to the year before and a 43% increase in reported hate crimes based on religion.

There are also reports that people are experiencing growing abuse while working. Violence and harassment was already a significant problem in the workplace. According to research from the Health and Safety Executive, there were 569,000 incidents of work related violence in 2014/15. This includes being assaulted or spat on or being threatened with violence.

The government does not publish a breakdown of the figures, but those sectors where there is a higher proportion of migrant or BME staff (such as health, retail and social care) have some of the highest rates.

However violence is only one aspect of the abuse that many migrant and BME workers experience. Reports of harassment and discriminatory behaviour at work include patients who refuse to be attended to by NHS workers from other parts of Europe, shop workers being told by customers they now had to “go home”, and bus and taxi drivers facing similar abuse.

Unions have a key role in combatting racist abuse in the workplace. This guide sets out to help reps to play that role.

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