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Race discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 says you mustn’t be discriminated against because of your race. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about race discrimination.

What’s meant by race?

If you want to make a discrimination claim, you need to find out if you’re someone who mustn’t be discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act says it’s only unlawful discrimination if you’re treated unfairly because of certain reasons. These reasons are called protected characteristics. Race is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act.

Race discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because of one of the following things:

  • colour
  • nationality
  • ethnic origin
  • national origin.

You can be discriminated against because you belong to a certain racial group. People who share the same colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins are part of the same racial group.

Nationality

Nationality means citizenship or membership of a particular nation. For example, you can be discriminated against because you’re a British, Australian or an Indian citizen.

National origins

National origins means your connection to a country or nation through birth. It’s different from nationality although they can overlap.

Example

You’re a British citizen and both your parents are of Chinese origin. Your nationality is British but you could say that your national origins are Chinese.

Example

You were born in Japan but now live in the UK. You’ve recently become a British citizen. Your nationality is British but your national origins are Japanese.

The English, Scots and Welsh are all considered to be national groups. This means that you can be discriminated against because you’re English, Scottish or Welsh.

Ethnic origins

The law says an ethnic group is a group who share the same history and cultural traditions. In addition, the group may share one or more of the following things:

  • the same language
  • the same religion
  • the same literature
  • the same geographical origin
  • being an oppressed group
  • being a minority.

The courts have said that Irish Travellers, Jews, Romany Gypsies and Sikhs are all ethnic groups.

What’s a racial group?

People who share the same colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins are part of the same racial group.

You can be part of several racial groups.

Example

You’re a British citizen with Jamaican born parents. You can be discriminated against because of your British nationality, your Jamaican national origins or because you’re black.

A racial group can also include two or more separate racial groups.

Example

British Asians can be a racial group. It would include people who are British citizens and who are of Asian national origins.

Other examples of racial groups include non-British citizens and non-European.

Discrimination because of someone else’s race

It’s unlawful to discriminate against you because someone you’re with or someone you know belongs to a certain racial group. This could be a parent, child, partner or friend.

This is called discrimination by association.

Example

You’re refused entry to a pub because you’re with a group of Irish Travellers. Irish Travellers count as an ethnic group. This is race discrimination against you and your friends.

Race discrimination because of who someone thinks you are

It’s against the law if someone discriminates against you because they think you belong to a certain racial group even though you don’t.

This is called discrimination by perception.

Example

A hotel refuses to accept your booking because you have an African-sounding name, even though you’re not African. This is unlawful discrimination by perception because of race.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)