BAME Livelihoods Matter – Taking Positive Action
The issue of race and ethnic diversity has come to the fore in recent months following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in America and the increased attention to the Black Lives Matter movement it triggered. Although that was a particularly shocking incident, the truth is that systemic (often unconscious) race discrimination remains pervasive in society and in the workplace.
Discrimination in the workplace can be (and often is) in the form of micro-aggressions which, although subtle, are no less serious or acceptable, as they play a huge part in sustaining systemic racism and must be called out.
People are often reluctant to speak up for fear of being seen as a “troublemaker” and being subjected to victimisation as a result. The workplace culture and environment may be one that does not encourage people to come forward with concerns regarding race discrimination, or to have open dialogue about such matters. This fear is compounded by stories in the press of people being subjected to unfavourable treatment for speaking out. Stories such as those involving Munroe Bergdorf – L’Oreal’s first transgender model – who was dropped by L’Oreal in 2017 for comments she made on social media about racism (although she received an apology and re-joined L’Oreal in June this year).
People may therefore try to ignore issues and leave the place of employment without explaining the true reason for their departure, resulting in lost talent for the employer. Ultimately, the failure to speak up means that issues involving race discrimination can go unnoticed and not be addressed.
The legal framework for tackling discrimination in the workplace is in place. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment on grounds of race. Those who speak up and raise complaints about discrimination are protected by the anti-victimisation provisions (which prohibit subjecting someone to a detriment because they have made allegations of discrimination) and whistleblowing laws (which prohibit subjecting a person who has raised concerns of wrongdoing to a detriment).
The issue therefore seems to be about implementation and the statistics show that we are a long way off where we should ideally be. In June 2020, it was reported that just eleven of “Big Four” accounting firms' 3,000 partners are black. It was also reported that a survey by Business in the Community (BITC) found that 1.5% of senior managers, directors and officials in the UK are black. Employers must do better.
Here are our practical suggestions for employers and managers to facilitate speaking up about racism and move towards eliminating racial discrimination in the workplace:
In summary, tackling race discrimination in the workplace is not an easy matter. Neither is talking about race. However, both must be done if we are to improve racial diversity in our workplaces and stamp out racism. Kingsley Napley has a wealth of experience in assisting employers in drafting and implementing workplace policies and procedures and can advise and support you in addressing the matters highlighted above.
As a firm, we have had many discussions about Black Lives Matter and how we can make a difference to the movement. We wanted to do more than just put out a statement of support, we wanted to take substantive action to address the inequalities faced by Black people and other ethnic minorities. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of blogs from our varying practice areas highlighting what we are doing, how you can make a difference and shining a light on the issues.
Our Diversity and Inclusion group is working hard with Human Resources and the Management Team to effect change through methods such as training and reviewing recruitment practices. We have implemented a lot of change but we recognise we have more to do and we are always looking to make improvements as a firm. We all have respective roles to play in advocating for issues of inequality and we hope our blogs give you some inspiration as to how you can make a change.
Moira is an experienced employment solicitor. She has successfully represented both employers and employees at the employment tribunal. She regularly advises clients pursuing and defending claims for unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing
Özlem is a Professional Support Lawyer in our Employment Team. She is very experienced in giving training talks on topical employment law issues and, as a member of the Employment Lawyers' Association (ELA), has participated in preparing ELA’s response to Government consultations on various issues.
Professional Support Lawyer
Whilst our Muslim colleagues and friends celebrate over communal meals and prayer, it is also a time for us at Kingsley Napley to reflect on the importance of observing and respecting the cultural and religious differences of others. We are motivated to make Kingsley Napley a place which is not only diverse, but also inclusive, where all our people feel able to bring their true selves to work.
We have seen examples of people being ‘outed’ for posting racist comments online by individual bystanders who have been able to find their LinkedIn profiles and then contact relevant employers calling for the employee in question to lose their job. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. But what can an organisation do in these circumstances, if it wants to demonstrate that it stands against racism and discrimination?
Most disputes between partners of professional services firms are settled either through confidential negotiations or arbitration. A public resolution of the matter through a full hearing and reported judgment is a rare occurrence. A recent example of such a case involving an ex-partner of a law firm is a useful reminder that it is difficult to challenge profit share or bonus decisions as an irrational exercise of discretion.
In a case that attracted national media coverage and emphasises the crucial importance of regulatory compliance and the highest standards of professional conduct in the financial services sector, the High Court dismissed a breach of contract claim brought by an investment manager.
So the Prime Minister has announced that most restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted on 19 July, despite acknowledging that the pandemic itself is far from over and that case numbers are expected to continue rising.
When I told some of my friends I was writing a piece about drag activism, their reaction was almost unanimous…
"Oh, but, is there much to say?"
That's when I realised that drag queens, for many, are more synonymous with big hair and lip-syncing pop hits rather than political consciousness and activism. You can certainly understand the reason for this - we have been totally spoiled in recent years with the explosion of Ru Paul’s Drag Race around the world - the make-up, talents and confidence being a feast for the eyes (and the soul). But we cannot minimise the political importance of Mama Ru’s creation. Who could forget numbers such as “Shady Politics”; the discussions of gay conversion therapy while applying make-up; and Bob the Drag Queen describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest? Not to mention Nancy Pelosi sashaying into the All Stars season…
In recent weeks, it has introduced a formal workplace policy providing paid time off for all staff who are directly or indirectly affected by pregnancy loss. This is not only a significant enhancement to the provisions required by law but is also, I understand, the first of its kind being put in place by a UK law firm. We hope other firms in our sector and beyond will follow suit and normalise protection in this space, thereby supporting the wellbeing of those affected and protecting talent.
Coming out is an extremely personal journey and will be unique to each person. It takes a lot of courage to come out and a person may have to repeatedly do this in their personal and professional lives. Statistics show that 46% of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual and 47% of people who identify as trans feel comfortable to discuss their orientation or gender identity.
How can you put the spotlight on intersectionality to remind others that, even within the LGBTQ+ community, not everyone is treated equal?
Are you proud of who you are, your journey and the person that you’ve become? Do you truly wear your heart on your sleeve? For some, being open and honest about who we are (which includes our gender identity or sexuality) does not come easily and can be extremely hard. It can be even tougher at work, and for those that hide their true self, the energy expenditure is endless. That survival cost of energy makes you less productive, or even worse still, it has a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health.
I am a trans woman who has recently embarked on her transition. Having only taken my first steps on this journey, I am acutely aware when writing this that I have much to learn about myself, about being trans, and about the diverse LGBTQ+ family that I now find myself part of. However, there is one theme that I feel is important to discuss as we celebrate Pride in 2021.
Following on from my colleague Sameena Munir’s blog ‘’pray the gay away: cull conversion therapy worldwide’’, the issue of gay conversion therapy dominates contemporary conversations surrounding LGBT politics and legislation in the UK, but the Government has failed to deliver on its promise to ban it.
For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.
It’s been 9 years since R&B artist Frank Ocean headed off rumours about his particular pronoun usage in the album Channel Orange by posting on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Since then, the momentum for the openness and success of queer artists has continued to gather pace, and LGBTQ+ representation in the arts and mainstream media is as wide as it has ever been. This rise has however raised important questions about pigeonholing queer artists, and perhaps most interestingly whether they must always shoulder the responsibility of ‘pushing the agenda’.
In February this year, I attended a virtual talk held by the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT+ History Month. The speakers featured individuals working in the legal sector and each discussed their experience of coming out as trans or non-binary at work. It feels an apt lesson given this year’s Pride theme: Visibility, Unity and Equality.
In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums. News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues. That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us. However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine. The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around. So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to say to same-sex parents.
We have newly renamed our network to the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) group. Our REACH network is a space where we come together to work towards fostering and maintaining an inclusive workplace, where we can all reach our full potential without fear of discrimination.
When deciding whether to focus on the discrete allegations or look beyond them, employers need to balance confidentiality with duty of care to employees, says Mark McWilliams.
Satvir Sokhi was recently invited to speak and take part in Leeds Beckett University’s Law Enrichment session which allowed a panel of ethnically diverse professionals to speak to students about our experiences with diversity and inclusion within the legal sector.
Employers need to show the individual’s behaviour clearly affected the organisation’s reputation or their colleagues, says Catherine Bourne.
According to the most recent NHS statistics 2,500 people are injured or diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year. Indeed it is estimated that there are a total of 50,000 people living in the UK with a spinal cord injury of some sort. Unfortunately sustaining a spinal cord injury impacts on every aspect of a person’s life. Often, where everyday tasks are a challenge, returning to work may seem unrealistic. The fact is that employment rates among people with spinal cord injuries remain much lower than the general population.
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