Project 24: Operationalising a zero tolerance approach to racial discrimination at work

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Key findings

Female black healthcare professional

Hampshire Perspectives is the County Council's residents' forum

This report summarises key findings from the 24th Hampshire Perspectives survey, which focused on understanding how to make a zero tolerance policy operational in the workplace. The survey was completed by 244 forum members between 17 and 31 May 2023 who gave their views on appropriate action in different fictitious examples of instances of perceived, or actual, racial discrimination. The learning will help our Adults’ Health and Care directorate create guidelines for managers about how to support employees at work in such situations.

Key findings were as follows:

Employees in the fictitious scenarios were all seen as deserving of support, but there were differences in views from men and women on how to handle the situation.

The primary motivations for supporting employees were around personal wellbeing and creating effective workplaces: ensuring discrimination was not taking place felt a secondary driver for some (but not all). However, there was a clear ranking of importance of support across the scenarios explored – where discrimination had more obviously taken place, respondents were more likely to advocate support. Women were generally more strongly in favour of offering supportive action, and in some instances their approach was more collaborative, while men sometimes endorsed a more directive style.

Respondents acknowledged that this is a difficult topic, where conflict between an employee’s treatment and impact on provision of care makes decisions more complex.

In the example of a worker experiencing racial abuse, respondents saw leaving the care-user’s property as increasingly less appropriate the greater the risk to the service user, and the more diminished the responsibility of the service user. In the case of the care home worker needing adjustments to allow for prayer during their shift, there was general support… provided it did not impact negatively on the team or on the care users.

Although feeling discrimination was wrong, there was hesitation over labelling behaviour as discriminatory in unclear situations, and there was evidence of a spread of underlying opinion over the right approach to racial discrimination.

A minority of respondents appeared keen to address discrimination head on, but a further minority felt highlighting possible instances created more problems or over-emphasised the issue. Most people fell in between, wanting to understand more about the possible causes before taking supportive action – which was typically for actions that placed onus on the employee and / or the manager to resolve issues as part of good management, rather than taking more formal anti-discrimination approach.

Racial discrimination is not the only concern in the workplace.

While this survey deliberately focused on racial discrimination at work, the importance of other forms of discrimination (e.g., health, age, gender) was clearly also a concern for forum members.