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Black Lives Matter helping to bring inequality in the workplace into focus

Published 10 August 2020
Black Lives Matter helping to bring inequality in the workplace into focus.
 
The horrific murder of George Floyd and the worldwide revulsion to it has seen a long overdue spotlight firmly focused on racial injustice in all aspects of life, including employment.
 
George Floyd, a black man, died from asphyxiation when he was detained by four police officers in the USA He was handcuffed, restrained and held face down on the floor by three of the officers. (1)
 
One cop kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 7 mins and 46 secs. The duration was initially given as 8 mins and 46 secs until Minnesota prosecutors corrected the figure three weeks after George Floyd's death (2
 
While being detained, George Floyd repeatedly and desperately pleaded ‘I can’t breathe,’ as he was being deprived of oxygen.  That dying, distressed plea became the slogan for many subsequent protests.
 
Captured on camera the harrowing footage and the casual and dismissive nature of the officers to a black man in evident suffering, shocked the world
 
In the wake of the brutal killing, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been a catalyst in the call for change.
 
BLM was established in reaction to the murder by police officers of black people in the USA in much higher numbers than white people. It is a movement for equality and against racism.
 
The focus on the BLM movement  has raised awareness and placed emphasis on race discrimination in all areas of life, which include the workplace
 
In recent months we have seen many high-profile businesses and organisations across the world  reiterate their commitment to equality and pledge support to BLM.
 
In the UK, the football world and the Premier League has shown its backing for BLM. 
 
‘Black Lives Matter’ replaced the players’ name on the back of their shirt when football resumed in June after lockdown restrictions were eased. 
 
Before the start of each game all players and officials knelt down and ‘took the knee’ to show their support for BLM.
 
‘Taking the knee’ was iconised by American football star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem to protest against police brutality against black people in the USA (3). 
 
He was later frozen out of the game because he was said to have disrespected the country’s national anthem. Kaepernick has not been signed by a team since.
 
The call to end inequality and injustice has been long and loud. This time it finally appears that it is being heard.
 
There is the possibility that in the current climate employees from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds may now feel confident and empowered to speak out about discrimination in the workplace. It appears to still be a problem and it is one that employers have to take seriously.
 
The shocking findings of the Racism at Work Survey published last year revealed that the majority of ethnic minority workers had experienced racial harassment at work in the last five years, and have been subjected to unfair treatment by their employer because of their race (4).
 
Many of the forms of workplace racism highlighted in the report are in fact hate crimes. This included over one in 10 ethnic minority respondents and six per cent of non-British white participants reporting that they had experienced racist violence at work. Also:
 
- A third reported that they had been bullied and/or subjected to insensitive questioning
- Almost 15 per cent of women and eight per cent of men stated that racial discrimination had caused them to leave their job
- 28 per cent of participants who reported experiencing racism at work reported having to take a period of sick leave
- Part time or non-permanent employees were more likely to report racial harassment and discrimination
 
 ACAS have published a new podcast ‘Black lives matter: the workplace’ (5) It examines how racism and inequality are experienced and persist, what white people need to do to be part of change, and what organisations and leaders need to do to be responsible for change.
 
Any complaint of race discrimination should be taken seriously, investigated without delay and all involved and implicated treated in a fair and reasonable manner.
 
Our comment
 
The unjustified killing of George Floyd is an appalling atrocity. 
There is no place in society or the workplace for racism, injustice or discrimination. 
We are aware that BAME employees bear the burden of a legacy of prejudice in the workplace. Change will not come easy. It will take hard work, perseverance, courage and unity to combat all forms of racial injustice and inequality. 
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
We are committed to working for equality and to combat racism in the workplace and all walks of life.
 
 
References
 
1 George Floyd death (Internet)  www.independent.co.uk (Cited 10.8.20) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/george-floyd-death-background-protests-riots-us-a9544326.html.  
 
2 (Internet) www.latimes.com (Cited 10.8.20) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-06-18/derek-chauvin-had-knee-george-floyd-neck-746-rather-than-846
 
3 Taking the knee www.bbc.co.uk (Internet) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53098516 (Cited 10.8.20)
 
4 Racisim at work TUC racism at work survey 2016-2017  (Internet) http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/code/research/projects/racism-at-work/tuc-full-report.pdf (Cited 10.8.20)
 
5 ACAS podcast (Internet) https://shows.acast.com/acaspodcast/episodes/black-lives-matter-the-workplace  (Cited 10.8.20)
 

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