Pharmacy professionals across the UK have spoken out about a variety of experiences of racial discrimination in the workplace in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests. Examples range from colleagues making assumptions about their character to lower levels of empathy, from physical abuse to being excluded from work events.
Every act of racial discrimination in the workplace, whether intentional or accidental, is illegal under the Equality Act 2010. The overwhelming majority of these acts pass by unquestioned, but you have options on how to react.
The first step is keeping a record with as much detail as possible about any incident that has affected you. Where did it happen, when, what was the context, what was the exact phrasing of any words used?
Then you could talk in private with your line manager to make it clear that you have suffered because of a colleague’s actions. This may be sufficient to prevent the discrimination from recurring. Your manager should investigate the complaint promptly, interviewing the perpetrators where possible. This may result in an internal disciplinary hearing.
However, talking to your manager may feel inappropriate – the discrimination may require taking further action, your line manager may be inaccessible, or talking may not yield the results you wanted. It is important to create an environment where employees are comfortable coming forward with issues when they arise, but this does not always happen. The next option is using your employer’s grievance procedure. This is a formal way to complain about your employer.
Employers must set out a grievance procedure by law that is available for staff to read. This may be in your staff handbook or statement of employment, but you may need to ask someone at the company such as another manager or HR to find it or the contact details of someone to whom you can send a complaint.
There are several steps in a grievance procedure, from raising it to deciding an outcome. These steps are laid out by independent public body the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
The third option is making a claim to an employment tribunal. This is a last resort if you feel the other two routes are unsuitable for you.
To begin an employment tribunal you must contact Acas. They will first offer you the option of early conciliation to help you resolve the issue without the time and stress of a tribunal. A claim must usually be made within three months of the incident for the tribunal to go ahead.
An employment tribunal victory for you could result in your company paying you compensation. If you have followed the process carefully, you should be able to avoid paying costs yourself.
However, before making a claim, you should talk to advisors about the best way of getting what you want.
Who to talk to
Citizens Advice is a network of independent charities offering confidential advice online, over the phone or in person in one of their centres. Contact its advisors for guidance on what to do about any level of discrimination.
View the Citizens Advice contact page here.
Acas explains on its website exactly how to handle the grievance procedure. Call the helpline to talk through your options for handling discrimination. You will have to contact Acas if you are considering an employment tribunal.
Acas helpline: 0300 123 1100.
The Equality Advisory & Support Service (EASS) is a government-funded helpline for advising individuals on resolving discrimination disputes.
In some instances, it may write to a company on behalf of an individual in order to initiate a resolution.
EASS helpline: 0808 800 0082.
Pharmacy organisations offer industry insiders’ knowledge on how pharmacy professionals can handle discrimination.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s statement of support for BAME individuals published on June 29 requests that pharmacy professionals reach out to help the society “to listen, learn, become allies [because] we want to understand what change the profession needs going forward” via email: [email protected].
The RPS also offers support on ethics for members via email [email protected] and its helpline 0207 572 2737.
The charity Pharmacist Support’s Listening Friends telephone service offers mental health support to pharmacists affected by discrimination.
Pharmacist Support helpline: 0808 168 5133
The UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) supports pharmacists, pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacy students who identify as black, offering support on work difficulties.
UKBPA email: [email protected]
PDA BAME network
The Pharmacists Defence Association Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (PDA BAME) Pharmacists Network was launched in April to focus on issues relevant to pharmacists of these ethnicities. View the PDA BAME website here.
Members of the PDA Union can ask for pharmacy-specific legal advice by calling 0121 694 7017 or emailing [email protected].