Racism in the workplace – act now and stamp it out!

In recent months at Jaluch, we have seen more racism in the workplace than at any other time I can recall in the past 20 years of running an HR business. And whilst some of it is mild (if there is such a thing) what is really worrying is that quite a bit of it is extreme.

Whichever way you voted, Brexit now needs to be about re-establishing a UK that stands on its own two feet with its head held high. But we cannot hold our heads high if we allow a small minority of ignorant and angry people to think that the Brexit vote has given them carte blanche to behave like ignorant savages… simply because we don’t have our eye on what is happening.

What happens in society is to a degree out of our control, but what happens in the workplace is definitely within our control and organisational leaders, directors and HR need to rapidly step up to the plate and recognise that this is an issue that needs addressing – and fast!

Just to be clear – if we didn’t permit black people to be told to ‘go home’ with a message left in a banana skin on their car 3 months ago, it is absolutely not permitted now. And if some employees think that we no longer have to respect everyone in our community then they need to be put straight. Equally, if we didn’t permit Muslims to be physically attacked with iron bars in the workplace a few months ago, it’s not acceptable now. And a few months ago if we valued our EU workers, then we need to set our employees straight that we continue to value those EU workers and therefore they should not be shouted at, threatened, abused or ill treated.

Taunts are for kids not adults. Stabbings are criminal, not civilised behaviour. Lude behaviour is for the immature. Social media bullying is vicious and absolutely not what Britain stands for. If people behave badly at work, get rid of them. There is no place in modern workplaces for those who disrupt and disrespect others.

I recognise that emotions have run high in recent months and that passions have been aroused by Brexit but complacent, distracted leadership is not acceptable.

And how do you get rid of people who drag us all down with their appalling behaviour? Well it should take about 2 weeks maximum if you treat it seriously, which you need to do so to re-set standards, set an example to others and to protect the person who has been attacked or abused. Here is the process in its simplest form (I suggest you get full legal advice from Jaluch if going down this route).

  • Suspend (within hours of the event ideally)
  • Conduct an investigation (take no more than a few days to conduct an investigation by treating this as a priority and if its taking longer than 2 weeks you are probably dragging your heels)
  • Invite to disciplinary (hopefully within 5-10 working days of the incident and if its weeks and weeks down the line, what is taking you so long?)
  • Dismiss for gross misconduct (assuming what they have done is sufficiently serious)

And for the rest of the staff, I urge all organisations to very quickly reissue their policies on diversity and inclusion, professional workplace behaviours and dignity at work (or whatever you have that is similar to that) so that you remind everyone of the standards expected. You need to be clear that this is not an issue to be avoided and just because your workplace was relatively racist free a few months ago, does not mean it still is. Emotions have changed/heightened so you need to be upfront with staff about that and deal with this head on before I get to hear about another racist incident. So HR… Directors… CEO’s… get your heads out of the sand and take this issue seriously before your organisation is the next one to make the Daily Mail headlines.

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