2001, amendments to the Race Relations Act came into force which brought previously exempt public bodies within the scope of the amended Act.
The amended Race Relations Act also imposes a general duty on all public bodies to promote racial equality and eliminate racial discrimination, and gives the Home Secretary (and Scottish Ministers, in Scotland) the power to make Orders placing specific duties on some or all public bodies. The CRE will have the power to enforce these duties when they come into force towards the end of 2001, by issuing compliance notices.
Discrimination in any of the areas listed below is unlawful under the amended Race Relations Act:
The amended Act applies to most employees, including vocational trainees. You are protected if you do personal work for someone else, for example plumbing or roof repairs. Employers and employment agencies must not discriminate on racial grounds against people seeking work, and unions are under a similar duty not to discriminate against their members or those wishing to become members. Partnerships in firms with six or more partners are also covered, as are bodies responsible for conferring qualifications or authorisation to enter a particular profession.
You are protected in all aspects of employment including: recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, training, pay and benefits, redundancy, dismissal and terms and conditions of work.
The amended Act does not apply to:
a. Certain jobs where the Crown is the employer (for example: the Bank of England, the British Museum, the British Council, embassies and consulates and certain jobs within the civil service): discrimination on the basis of nationality or ethnic or national origin is not unlawful, but discrimination based on colour is prohibited
b. Work that is for the purpose of a private household
c. Work where race is a 'genuine occupational qualification' for the job; such as acting, modelling or serving in cafés or restaurants, where people from a particular ethnic or racial background are needed for authenticity; or providing personal welfare services to people of a particular racial group which are best provided by a person from that racial group
d. Jobs that involve working outside Great Britain most of the time
The amended Act applies to all schools and colleges maintained by local education authorities or education authorities (in Scotland), independent (fee paying) schools and colleges, further education colleges, special schools, early years providers, universities, local education authorities and governors of schools and colleges and school boards (in Scotland). The amended Act covers admission, treatment as a pupil or student, and exclusion, as well as decisions by local education authorities and education authorities (in Scotland), such as decisions on special educational needs.
Stop and search
Racial discrimination in law enforcement, including stop and search, is now covered by the Race Relations Act. This means that if you believe you have been stopped and searched by the police directly because of your race or colour (or indirectly, for example because of your hairstyle or language that you speak) you can complain of racial discrimination. The same applies if you have been less favourably treated on racial grounds than someone else was - or would have been - treated during the stop and search, for example in the way you were spoken to.
If this happens you should ask for advice from your nearest CRE office, asking for a legal affairs officer (for addresses and phone numbers, click on 'Contact Us' at the top of this page). For general advice you can also click on the link for 'Legal Advice' and then go to 'Making a Complaint').
You should contact the CRE immediately as time limits apply to bringing a case. All applicants to the CRE receive some advice about their complaint, though only a small proportion will receive legal representation.
The amended Act applies to the selling, letting or managing of property (including business premises), making it illegal to discriminate in the way any of these activities are conducted.
The amended Act does not apply to rental accommodation in 'small premises' where the landlord/landlady or owner, or a member of his or her family, also live, and where they would have to share facilities with people who are not members of the household
Goods and services
The amended Act applies to anyone providing goods, facilities or services to the public; for example: hotels, shops, banks, insurance companies, financial services, cinemas, theatres, bars, restaurants, pubs, places of entertainment or refreshment, transport and travel services, and services provided by any local or public authority and by any profession or trade. It is unlawful to be refused a service, or not to be given the same standard of service extended to others.
The amended Act does not apply to:
a. Taking in and caring for foster children or elderly people
b. Clubs, associations and charities set up especially for people from a particular ethnic or national group; discrimination on the basis of nationality or ethnic or national origin is not unlawful, but discrimination based on colour is prohibited
c. Any public function
From 2 April 2001, the amended Act applies to all the functions of public authorities that were previously excluded. This brings within the scope of the amended Act the law enforcement or control functions of government agencies, including the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the probation service, Customs and Excise, the immigration service and the prison service; and the regulatory functions of local authorities, including environmental health, trading standards, licensing, and child protection. If you believe you have been discriminated against, directly, indirectly or by way of victimisation, by any public authority since 2 April 2001, you have the right to bring a complaint in a county court in England and Wales or in a sheriff court in Scotland. Certain complaints of discrimination relating to decisions on immigration status will be considered as part of the one-stop immigration appeal procedure.
You are also protected against discrimination where a public function is being carried out by a private company or a voluntary organisation on behalf of a public authority. This means the amended Act applies to prison discipline in private prisons as well as prisons run by the Prison Service.
The amended Act does not apply to:
a. The work of the Houses of Parliament or the security services
b. Judicial or legislative acts and decisions not to prosecute
c. Certain immigration and nationality functions where discrimination is permitted on grounds of nationality or ethnic or national origin
Additional areas outside the scope of the amended Act
The following areas are also outside the scope of the amended Act:
a. Anything written, produced or broadcast by the media — the law of libel applies only to individuals, not to groups of people
b. Anything done under 'statutory authority' in order to comply with an Act of Parliament (whenever it was passed), or rules or regulations made by a government minister under any law; for example, a parent's choice of school may be racially discriminatory, but quite lawful under the education laws
c. Racist attacks or harassment on the street or in your home; these could be criminal offences and should be reported to the police
d. Discrimination that occurs in other countries of the EU; however, many countries have their own laws against racial discrimination. The EU race directive, approved in June 2000, will require all EU countries to introduce laws outlawing racial discrimination by July 2003
e. Discrimination on grounds of religion; however, you may be protected by the Race Relations Act if the discrimination is also on the ground of your national or ethnic origin
Are racial harassment, abuse and violence covered?
You are protected by the Race Relations Act if you have been abused or harassed on racial grounds in any of the situations covered by the amended Act. For example, you can bring a case against your employer if you experience racist abuse from other employees, or from customers or clients, and your employer does nothing to put a stop to it or to protect you from such abuse. You may be able to take a case against your landlord or landlady if you are racially harassed by them or by their employees.
In situations not covered by the Race Relations Act, you may be able to use other laws to get the harassment or abuse stopped. For example, if you are racially harassed by your neighbours, their visitors or others in the local community, you or your local council may be able to get a court order to stop the harassment. If the people who are harassing you live in a rented property, the landlord or landlady may be able to take action to evict them. Of course, you should also report all incidents to the police.
Racist attacks and violence are serious criminal offences and must be reported to the police. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 created new 'racially aggravated offences', such as harassment, assault, grievous bodily harm, and criminal damages, which carry significantly higher penalties. It is also a criminal offence under the Public Order Act 1986 to use threatening, abusive or insulting language or behaviour in order to stir up racial hatred. This includes distributing racist leaflets. All suspected criminal offences and any racist incident should be reported to the police.
(Courtesy: Commission for Racial Equality)