Divisions or diversity? Why Employers Should Accept That They Have a Key Role to Play in Promoting Consensus and Avoiding Interracial Strife

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Recent events in France and Germany illustrate how readily the prejudicial attitudes of even a few extreme and violent individuals can paralyze society. But is prejudice increasing in the general population and how can it be tackled? The Secretary-General of The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) writes....

According to Robin Chater, the Secretary-General of the Federation of European Employers (FedEE)

"Employers have a pivotal role in encouraging religious and ethnic harmony throughout society. Unless more is done to encourage racial and religious toleration through training, education and social interaction prejudice will grow and all western societies will be incurably destabilized"

  • The workplace is one of the principal places where people meet others from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. In a recent survey by the Department for Communities and Local Government (2012) it was found that 54% of the population mixed in this way through "work, school or college".
  • UK employers currently face a 11% - 15%% chance of facing a discrimination claim before an employment tribunal during the next five years.... And by 2025 this is projected by FedEE to grow to a 23% - 32% chance - with over 50% of claims being for racial discrimination
  • The typical costs - in management time and legal costs - of fighting a discrimination claim that is lost by the claimant or withdrawn before a hearing is £14,000. If the claimant wins their case the costs will rise to over £30,000, in addition to the stress placed on participants and damage to a company's reputation.

In Robin Chater's view "the extension of the period from next month to two years before new employees in the UK qualify for full employment protection will encourage more employees to make discrimination and harassment claims when they are dismissed after a short period of service".

So why do less than 5% of UK employers take steps to train their workforces to understand even the legal pitfalls of discrimination - let alone the broader task of improving racial tolerance?

Some facts

  • 18.3% of the population in England and Wales are now from a nonwhite ethnic minority group (NWEMG). This is set to increase to 27.5% by 2025
  • The current concentration of the NWEMG in Greater London and along the M1/M6 corridor will disappear over the next 10-15 years and discrimination levels are likely to rise as the nonwhite population seek work in regions where traditional prejudicial attitudes remain strong.
  • Currently those from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins are 28% less likely to secure work than the population as a whole.

Recent Events

Three months ago the UK government established a new Equality Advisory and Support Service to help people make discrimination claims.

Employers now also have a better way to get across the message. The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) has produced a new training film in collaboration with the TUC and ACAS . "Without Prejudice" is a sensitive and moving drama illustrating how prejudice can arise in the workplace through a succession of seemingly harmless remarks and actions - and end up in a tribunal. Trailer: http://www.fedee.com/fedee-media/

The next step

The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) will shortly be launching an initiative that will encourage employers to celebrate ethnic and religious diversity. FedEE is drawing together examples of all the best practices currently followed by employers across Europe and producing a range of media, materials and case studies that can be used in training days, intercultural events, inhouse journals and support for activities in the broader community.


Ethnic tensions are growing around the world and Europe is not immune to the upheavals. In fact, as racial minorities grow in significance attitudes are likely to harden amongst certain sections of the traditionally dominant ethnic group. The competition for common wants such as jobs, houses, consumer goods and other objects of status will increasingly be perceived as between "them" and "us" rather than between individuals ...and racial stereotyping will provide the rational for seeing the other group(s) as inferior.

Further information

Please contact Robin Chater on (UK) (0)770 2300054 or email robin.chater(at)fedee(dot)com or Alison Merrett on UK (0) 207 520 9264

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