The number of discrimination claims leading to employment tribunals in the UK soared 48 per cent last year, according to the latest figures.
The surge in cases in 2020 came amid both the global Black Lives Matter movement and the height of the pandemic which hit ethnic minorities hardest.
There were a total of 3,641 employment tribunal cases for race discrimination during the year, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), Financial News first reported.
The figure was nearly 50 per cent more than the 2,464 cases recorded in 2019, up 23 per cent on the 2,948 cases in 2018 and a considerable 76 per cent from 2017’s total 2,036 cases.
There have been 1,734 such cases during 2021, as of 30 June, suggesting the UK could match 2020’s figure again a year later.
Since the Black Lives Matter movement made headlines last summer, following the tragic murder of George Floyd by a US police officer, companies have faced mounting pressure to up their diversity and inclusion commitments.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has quite rightly highlighted the importance of eradicating race discrimination in all areas including the workplace and it is no doubt a significant factor leading to the surge in claims,” employment partner at Keystone Law, Sarah Garth, explained, adding that “We saw a similar surge in sex discrimination claims following the #Me Too movement.”
Garth, who has assisted on complex discrimination claims, urged businesses to review their Equal Opportunities Policies and offer regular anti-discrimination training to their workforce.
Larger organisations could also consider hiring specifically trained equal opportunities officers, Garth added, to ensure internal complaints can be made to those who are trained to deal with diversity issues.
“Employers can reduce the risk of claims by ensuring they have a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination,” she said.
“This message should come from senior management to set the right culture throughout the business and should apply not only during the working relationship but also during the job application process.”