Tackling racism on the employment field

A recent survey finds that 37 per cent of respondents say they've been victims of discrimination, reports Mike Barnard

The recent racism investigations involving Premier League footballers have proven that, despite high profile campaigns led by respected players and organisations, such as �Show Racism the Red Card" and �Kick Racism Out of Football", even club captains can become embroiled in disputes. A clear message has come from all quarters that racist discrimination is thoroughly detestable and that those guilty of it must be punished. Under the nose of the world's media, accusations of racism on the international stage will always be treated seriously. But it's in the workplace that racism and discrimination risk going unpunished.

A Milkround survey recently asked more than 250 students and graduates for their experiences and views on discrimination at work. It was discouraging to find that 37 per cent of respondents said they'd been victims of discrimination. 40 per cent of female respondents felt they were most often the victims of age discrimination, meanwhile 44 per cent of men have battled ethnic discrimination. What's more, 52 per cent of all respondents claimed to have witnessed one of their colleagues becoming the victim of discrimination.

Discrimination at work is just as despicable as on the football field, but tackling discrimination in the workplace can be far more difficult than on the pitch. Footballers can gain the backing of their manager, other players at their club, and the media to make very public complaints. But, if you're facing discrimination at work, the measures that can be taken tend to be less clear - especially if the accused is someone of authority, or a well-respected person in the business. Though it can seem like there's no way of standing up to them, or that your claim won't be taken seriously, that's not the case.

Responsible companies always deal with claims of discrimination in a firm manner. That's perhaps why, according to the survey results, two thirds of students and graduates are more likely to apply to a firm with a clear equal opportunities policy.

Anyone struggling with discrimination at work should investigate what measures are in place to protect them. In the first instance, the best course of action is to speak to the HR department, where possible, for they are in a position to advise and assist, while being sensitive to the situation. Colleagues can also be key allies in seeking assistance, especially if they've witnessed the discrimination. And, nearly half of the students and graduates surveyed said the best way to tackle workplace discrimination is to take a greater interest in how colleagues are treated.

If you experience discrimination in the workplace, or know of someone who is, don't stay silent: it will only allow the problem to continue or grow worse. Not every business has a supportive atmosphere which keeps a close eye on treatment that might be deemed unfair, and if there are no resources to tackle discrimination within a company, external options are available.