Make it a legal requirement for organisations to have a discrimination policy
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Under the Equality Act 2010 it is not a legal requirement for all workplaces and other organisations to have a policy visibly in place detailing what the procedure for reviewing reports of racism and other forms of discrimination is. Too often people complain about discrimination in the workplace, schools and wider society, only to find that their experiences get dismissed or not sufficiently investigated. It leaves you feeling like your lived experience is not valid and you are not protected in that space.
Here is what I want to change:
- Make it a legal requirement for all UK registered organisations (public sector companies, private companies, educational institutions, charities etc.) to have a policy visibly in place detailing what exactly the procedure for dealing with reports of discrimination and racism is.
It should include:
- A timescale for ensuring it is thoroughly investigated as soon as possible
- A way for people to file a formal complaint in a safe and accessible manner
- An obligation to document any proceedings relating to the complaint to ensure accountability
This is my story:
I was President of the Students’ Union at Hull University Union (now called Hull University Students’ Union) between 2017-2019. I was the first female president in almost a decade, the first female black president and then also became the first black president to be re-elected.
Imagine being the only black member of staff and only black board member at your workplace. Now imagine complaining about multiple racist incidents and being told those incidents were not “malicious” and that your colleagues might not agree that it was racist, even when you are the only one that is effected by that behaviour. Here are just a handful of things I had to deal with:
- Being told by a white member of staff and fellow elected representative that “the n-word is acceptable to use”
- Being told by a white member of the board that “black” is “inappropriate” and “can be construed as racism as black is a derogatory term”
- Receiving aggressive and inappropriate WhatsApp messages about me
- Photos of me taken and posted online publicly without permission
- Staff touching my hair without permission
The main investigation by the board was never concluded. The investigation had no final outcome as a senior member of the organisation claimed that a lawyer was needed to determine whether the discriminatory comments were indeed racist. This lawyer was never hired.
I was silenced, manipulated and lied to. I was initially told not to share my story so I could give the organisation a chance to investigate the board member, after which they would post a public statement condemning the racist comments. I listened and trusted them.
Each time I asked for an update it was done through face to face meetings or over the phone, while some emails asking questions were either ignored or only answered in person. The burden was placed on me to keep chasing up for an update or progress.
I professionally managed very difficult work situations during my time as President, however what I couldn’t deal with was racial discrimination and appropriate action not being taken. I felt like my experience was not taken seriously. It was especially hard for me being the figurehead of the organisation because their lack of action made me feel so powerless. Even I, the President of Hull University Union, could not do anything about racism when it happened to me and our students. This experience has affected both my physical and mental health. I’ve long wanted to speak out, but the manipulation and lying left me without a voice. This is why I want to make this change so no one has to experience what I had to.
This addition to the Equality Act 2010 would ensure that anyone witnessing or experiencing discrimination would know what that organisation’s procedures for receiving, managing and investigating these complaints are. These visible anti-discrimination policies would ensure the burden of following up is on the organisation, not the individual submitting the complaint, as well as enhance accountability.
Please sign this petition to make sure diversity is better protected in the places where we work, live and learn. Representation matters but now it’s time to step up and truly #makediversitycount!
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