Human Resources

Definition – Unlawful racial discrimination

The Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (the Act) makes it unlawful to discriminate – directly or indirectly – against someone on racial grounds.  Under the Act, ‘racial’ means reasons of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.  Racial groups are defined accordingly.  For example, Africans, Caribbean, Gypsies, Indian, Irish, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Irish Travellers, Jews and Sikhs are among the groups recognised as the racial groups under the Act. 

Direct racial discrimination means treating a person less favourably than another on racial grounds.  An example of direct discrimination would be applying harsher discipline to black pupils because they are black.

Indirect racial discrimination means that a requirement or condition which is applied equally to everyone:

  • Can only be met by a small proportion of people from a particular racial group.

  • Is to their detriment; and

  • Cannot be justified on non-racial grounds.

All three of these parts must apply.  An example of unlawful indirect discrimination might be where a college’s rules do not allow for a particular racial group’s customs, and cannot be justified in terms of the college’s needs.

The term ethnic minority is taken to mean: any group that traditionally suffers disadvantage or discrimination because of their race, colour or national origins, or religious beliefs.  The term is intended to cover both visible and non-visible minority groups.

Source: Commission for Racial Equality 2002


BME - Black and minority ethnic

DR - Deputy Registrar

HR - Human Resources

SD Staff Development

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The HR team is based on the first floor of Egmont House
Postal address: Human Resources, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX