Racism, discrimination and personal injury claims are very sensitive issues when it comes to the workplace and everyday living. Many people fail to realise that when pursuing a personal injury claim this covers not only physical injuries but also psychological injuries. It is important to note that the courts treat psychological issues on a par with physical injuries, often awarding significant compensation. So, what are the laws covering racism, discrimination and personal injury claims in the modern day environment?
There are numerous acts of Parliament in the UK which have been in place for many years; we have also seen the introduction of additional legal protection in recent times. So, what acts of Parliament should you refer to when looking towards personal injury compensation as a consequence of racism/discrimination?
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the umbrella act which covers the health and well-being of all employees and the legal obligations of employers. Quite simply it is the legal obligation of employers to ensure the health and well-being of their employees. This takes in everything from the working environment to equipment, training to complaints procedures and much more. While the initial act is more than 40 years old, it has been amended and updated over the years to reflect the changing environment.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Just before the turn-of-the-century we saw the introduction of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which further clarifies the duty that employers have to consider the risks to their workforce. This places a legal obligation on employers to assess any specific risks and then prevent/control them. This includes everything from violence to bullying in the workplace and obviously racism and discrimination.
Equality Act 2010
In many ways the UK has been at the forefront of equality legislation and the Equality Act 2010 introduced a number of specific legal requirements. It is now unlawful to discriminate against any employee due to various characteristics such as:-
- Ethnic/national origin
The act defines harassment as a form of discrimination which is described as:-
Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual
It is not difficult to see that the authorities have been extremely proactive regarding harassment, racism and discrimination in the workplace. We also saw the introduction of Public Sector Equality Duty which covers public sector employees in the UK and the subject of equality. Some may question why there are seemingly tighter regulations for the public sector, as opposed to the private sector, but there are also acts specific to the private sector.
Crime and Disorder Act 1998
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 addresses racially/religious aggravated offences, specifically covering those defined as hate crimes. These criminal acts may be within the workplace or in the public domain and the laws have certainly assisted in significantly reducing this type of activity. You will notice that many of the subsequent acts after the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 have tightened up on regulations regarding any form of racism or discrimination.
Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Back in 1997 we also saw the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act which makes harassment a criminal offence as well as violent/threatening behaviour. As a consequence, those who have suffered this kind of harassment will be able to take legal action against the perpetrators. This could include compensation from an array of different parties found to be wholly or even partially negligent.
Racism/discrimination in the workplace
The legal noose is tightening around those undertaking acts of racism and discrimination in the workplace. While we have the umbrella Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 the introduction of various other legal instruments has reduced the amount of wriggle room for those sued for compensation. There are a number of actions that employers can take to prove they have fulfilled their own responsibilities including:-
- Integrating staff irrelevant of ethnicity
- Equality training
- Appreciation of different beliefs
- General training
It is fair to say that employers cannot control the actions of all employees 24/7 but if they undertake the above actions they can demonstrate they have done as much as possible. In the event of a personal injury claim this could at worst mitigate potential compensation awards and in some cases remove any element of liability.
Racism/discrimination in sport
While racism is prevalent in many areas of society (to varying degrees) we recently saw the England football team playing a European Championship qualifier in Bulgaria. This competition is run by UEFA which is one of the world governing bodies of football. TV coverage showed disgusting chants targeting England’s black players specifically. Such was the severity of the abuse that the game was suspended twice and there was a real risk of the match being abandoned. So, legally what role do the various parties have in protecting footballers as well as managers and backroom staff from racist/discriminative abuse?
The English Football Association (FA) has a duty of care towards their “employees” which include all of those connected with the England football team. Historically, there have been issues both in the UK and overseas so to suggest racism is simply an overseas issue is wrong. The fact that the FA had already discussed potential racist chanting at the England team and management shows they are taking their role seriously. There was a real chance of the England team walking off last night in what would have been one of the highest profile challenges to racism.
Aside from the fact this type of activity is illegal; from a personal injury claim point of view it is the duty of the FA to do as much as possible to protect their personnel. The pressure on some of England’s black players must have been intense and the psychological impact may be there for many years to come. It is encouraging to see the FA taking such a solid stance against this type of activity; their actions would reflect favourably in the event of any personal injury claim going to court.
There have long been concerns regarding racism in football and the psychological impact this can have on those working in the industry. We have seen an array of different schemes introduced by UEFA to fight racism and discrimination and protect those involved in the game. Ironically, part of Bulgaria’s stadium was closed during the England game as a consequence of racist chanting in previous games.
It would be interesting to see any personal injury claim brought against UEFA as a consequence of psychological damage caused by racism/discrimination in football. When you see a footballer fined £80,000 for advertising a gambling company not part of the UEFA corporate portfolio, but much lessre fines for racist abuse and chanting during a game, this put everything into perspective. Many would argue UEFA could do more to combat the scourge of racism/discrimination but football authorities around the world also have an array of obligations both legally and morally.
It is safe to say that legal protections for employees across a range of different industries have been tightened in recent times. The issue of racism and discrimination is now being taken more seriously than ever before. Many believe that the worldwide TV coverage of the Bulgaria v England game will rightly bring this subject to the surface yet again and prompt more discussions. Whether football associations, public sector employers or private sector businesses the threat of significant financial penalties and damage to reputation should spur more to review their procedures to tackle racism/discrimination.
Claiming personal injury compensation
The vast majority of people automatically assume that it is only physical injuries which are considered under personal injury compensation legislation. In reality, psychological issues as a consequence of negligence/actions by third parties are considered in the same manner as physical injuries. The impact on those suffering racist/discriminative behaviour could include an array of consequences such as:-
- Bringing on additional psychological trauma
- Emotional distress
- Financial distress
- Restricting career opportunities
- Long-term psychological issues
- The need for professional treatment
While the list of potential consequences is much larger, the above issues will give you an idea of how the psychological (and potentially physical) impact of racism/discrimination can be life changing.
Many will be surprised to learn that racism and discrimination are issues which are covered by personal injury legislation. While the vast the majority may be described as “psychological” issues they can have just as dramatic an impact on a person standard of living as a physical injury. The scenes at the Bulgaria v England game will certainly bring this subject into the limelight and prompt in-depth discussions. In the midst of such events it is easy to forget that there are already laws out there, both in the UK and overseas, which should protect employees.
Whether these regulations need to be tightened to take into account the modern era is a whole different debate.