A Critical Analysis of the UK’s Race Relations act 1976 under the Equality Act 2010

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Explanation of the Race Relations Act 1976

Equality aims at creating a fairer society where every individual can freely participate in all activities and has the same opportunities to fulfil their potential. Legislation adequately backs equality under the Equality Act 2010 in the United Kingdom (Act, 2010). The Act was designed to address any unfair discrimination, victimisation, and harassment, foster good relations between individuals who share a protected characteristic and those who do not have and advance equality of opportunity. There are various aspects which are protected by the Equality Act 2010 such as disability, age, marriage, race, religion, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, and pregnancy and maternity. Under the aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010, the UK parliament came up with the race relations Act 1976 which prevents discrimination on the grounds of race. There are various items covered by the relations Act of 1976 which include discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic, and national origin in the provision of goods and services, education, employment, and public functions. The following essay will critically analyse the extent to which the provisions of the act are liberal, radical, or conservative in their design and the degree to which the provisions of the Act eliminate discrimination.

The Race Relations Act of 1976 incorporated the earlier Acts of 1965 and 1968 to become more efficient in the elimination of discrimination. The shortcomings of the previous legislation compelled the Labour Government in 1976 to make the amendments mainly to limit the powers available to the Community Relations Commission and the Race Relations Board evident in the early 1970s (McCrudden, 1991). The issue of sex discrimination was of crucial significance in the formulation of the race relations act. The problem of segregation and racial discrimination in the UK had become rampant in the Political and Economic Planning between 1974 and 1976. A wide range of sources was consulted before the amendments were made to ensure that the Act adequately addressed all the pressing and emerging issues. Later, the Act was amended by the Race Relations Act 2000 to include significant functions such as granting a statutory duty on all public bodies to promote race equality and demonstrating that all procedures are put in place to prevent race discrimination.

Initially, the British Judicial process did not address racial and sex discrimination when dealing with different forms of inequality and discrimination. Therefore, the more comprehensive structural and economic changes during the 1960s which led to the liberalisation of many circles of public life created numerous chances for women, especially in the field of education due to the expansion of the system in higher education. Additionally, a more substantial number of women was becoming more active in the labour market and hence it was important to develop an Act that could challenge the existing ideological domination of male construct in the society. The Conservatives drafted the Sex Discrimination Bill where equal opportunities for both men and women were evident (Parmar, 1982). The radical changes focused on three primary objectives which included the removal of unfair discrimination against women in training and employment by the government, widening of the opportunities available for women, and ensuring that women contributed to the society equally just like the male counterparts. Roy Jenkins and the Select Committee stressed on the significance of the Race Relations Act, and hence it was important for the parliament to amend the Bill of equal rights (Wadham, Robinson, & Ruebain, 2010).

The Race Relations Act requires public authorities such as colleges and universities to carry out their functions with due regard to the provisions of the Act. In this case, the authorities are required to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination, promote good relations between individuals of diverse races, and promote equality of opportunity in all fields. The liberal duty is obligatory, and hence universities and other public organizations must adhere to its provisions even when there are few people from minority ethnic backgrounds. According to the conservatives, the duty must be applied within all the functions of an organization relevant to race equality. For example, a purpose of learning and teaching encompasses the transfer of knowledge from the facilitators to the students. Therefore, when the proportionality concept is applied, there will be some courses where race equality issues will be more profound compared to others (Williams, 1989). The government requires lecturers to include matters related to race in the curriculum. Ultimately, this ensures that specific students do not face discrimination based on their racial backgrounds. Universities should take racial bullying and harassment seriously by guaranteeing strict reporting mechanisms and promoting good relations between individuals from different races. Also, the school should be sensitive to various linguistic, cultural, faith requirements among the students and staff in the organization. The general duty of the race relations Act is to ensure equality in all public functions including policy-making quality assurance, development planning, and employment practice.

Voluntary action by institutions and individuals plays a crucial role in promoting racial equality concerning opportunities. For instance, section 47 of the Act contains the codes of practice that should be exercised to ensure equal opportunities for employment. Therefore, the government’s positive lead helps people to change their practices voluntarily to eliminate discrimination. The Race Relations Act includes the equal opportunities approach which recognises the various barriers that discriminate against the members of particular groups. According to Fredman on the new concept of equality, there should be a break cycle of weakness that is associated with the membership of specific racial groups (Fredman, 2002). The claim ensures that there is the promotion of respect for all persons thus maintaining equality across all races. Issues of stigma, stereotyping, and humiliation should be redressed to ensure that there is equality in all functions of life. Different barriers such as cultural, personal, physical, communication, and institutional have been addressed by the Race Relations Act 1976. The fact that the provisions of the Act give people the opportunity to take action if they feel discriminated against ensures that there is a reduction of racial differences in the society. Therefore, it becomes difficult to treat individuals differently because of their colour, race, a nation of origin, and ethnicity.

Effectiveness of the Race Relations Act 1976

Public bodies and public authorities in the United Kingdom are now required as a general statutory duty to remove unlawful racial discrimination and ensure the efficient promotion of good relations between people from diverse ethnic groups. Promoting racial equality improves employment opportunities and provide fair and accessible services to all individuals. According to the Act, people can take action any time they feel discriminated in employment, education, and housing. Therefore, people should not be discriminated because of their colour, race, the nation of origin, or ethnicity. For instance, deliberately refusing to serve people from the minority groups as well as ignoring racial harassment of employees is strictly prohibited by the provisions of the Act. Up to this point, therefore, it is essential to analyse the effectiveness of the provisions of the Race Relations Act (RRA) in eliminating discrimination in public organisations.

Under the RRA, the concept of indirect discrimination through prohibitive conditions that disadvantages specific groups of people is well recognised. In this case, there is an emphasis on the promotion of good relationships between people from diverse racial groups. On the contrary, an obligation that is meant to effect change through the imposition of an affirmative duty to handle structural disadvantages in the society goes further by ensuring substantive equality. The approach may be considered controversial because of the assumption that Race Relations Act violate the fundamental principles of fairness (Meer, 2010). The RRA represents a high point in protecting people against discrimination although it does not provide an opportunity to take corrective action. The recent improvements in the Race Relations Act 1976 provide a basis for requiring decisive action by public organisations to maintain equality at the workplace. Employers in the public sector are needed to come up with a Race Relations Scheme that shows how the organisation will tackle issues related to discrimination based on race (Young & Connelly, 1984). The Race Equality Scheme should state the policies, functions, and proposed policies which are considered essential in assessing the performance of the duty imposed by the RRA. Section 71 of the Act further evaluate the impact of the proposed plans on the promotion of race equality in the public sector. The publication of the results has ensured that the Act remains effective in monitoring policies that help in promoting equality.
The Race Relations Act 1976 imposes obligations such that employers in the public sector are required to undertake ethnic monitoring to ensure that racial groups are not discriminated. Currently, many instances of indirect discrimination based on race are evident in public entities. An individual who imposes of intends to impose a condition, requirement, or practice that has an adverse effect on the disadvantaged with a protected attribute is considered unreasonable (Vanhala, 2006). For instance, an advertisement for a job as a cleaner requires the applicant to read and speak fluent English. The requirement may disadvantage an individual on the basis of race and hence not reasonable. In this case, reading and speaking fluent English is not necessary when undertaking the job. The requirement is deemed unreasonable because it will disadvantage people from non-English speaking backgrounds (Hepple, 2010). Racial differences, directly and indirectly, affect people in the job environment. For example, a public entity may tell its employees not to wear any form of headgear, which is discriminatory against individuals whose faith demand is wearing of the headdresses. The Race Relations Act has been on the frontline in eliminating such practices or ensuring that they are monitored to guarantee equality.

The Race Relations Act 1976 has also ensured the protection of vulnerable people. For example, a public organisation with more than 150 employees is supposed to ensure that there are representatives from each group receiving training, involved in grievance procedures, benefit or suffer detriment due to performance assessment, and subject to disciplinary proceedings (Sooben, 1990). In this case, section 47 of the RRA gives the Commission for Racial Equality the mandate to issue Codes of Practice that aim at promoting racial equality (Guild, 2000). The United Kingdom was forced to extend its concepts relating to racial discrimination beyond those covered by the domestic law. The laws are directly enforceable within the United Kingdom and any person found to violating them is held responsible for extending racial discrimination. Therefore, the race directive provides equal treatment of all people and discourages against both direct and indirect discrimination.

On the other hand, the Race Relations Act has not been fully effected due to certain shortcomings. In this case, one should understand that equality cannot be achieved merely by similarly treating every person. For example, implementing the directives of the Race Relations Act does not change people’s attitudes and beliefs regarding the issue of discrimination (Schwartz & Wade, 1972). Irrespective of whether the defining factor is sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, the differences that exist cannot guarantee equality of outcomes. Most of the approaches used in ensuring fairness and eliminating discrimination involve detaching an individual from a group which they belong and expecting them to conform to the norms of the more significant and more defined faith. Additionally, the victims of racial discrimination may lack legal and cultural understanding which makes it hard to enforce the directives against racial segregation (Rose, 1975). For instance, people from the minority groups may fail to understand the services they are allowed to access or their rights hence making it extremely difficult to promote equality. At times, it becomes difficult to identify various forms of discrimination, and this makes it harder for the Race Relations Act to address all issues associated with bias. The legislation does not change deeply held attitudes, and this ultimately diminishes people’s conformance to laws and regulations against discrimination.

Comparison of UK Race Relations Act and U.S Anti-Discrimination Law

The United States Anti-Discrimination law could be traced back in 1967 where there were numerous cases of discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, and sex. The rules have successfully been used in progressing the scope of the UK law on racial discrimination. However, there are notable differences between the rules of the two countries concerning official policy towards the minority groups and judicial process. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the law against racial discrimination and ethnic diversity were not actively promoted. On the contrary, the law on ethnic diversity in the United States was keenly observed. Additionally, judges in the United States have demonstrated a better understanding of the objectives and purposes of the anti-discrimination act compared to the British judges. The American courts took several years to broaden the interpretation of the statutory provisions of the anti-discrimination law. The judges in the UK courts found it necessary to explicitly explain the direct and indirect discrimination elements of the Race Relations Act and Sex Discrimination Act (Street, Howe, & Bindman, 1967). Eventually, this has ensured that courts in the United Kingdom can handle complicated issues arising from racial discrimination.

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In terms of judicial differences, courts in the United Kingdom are theoretically required to follow the will of parliament while specific Acts in the United States are interpreted as being unconstitutional. Scholars argue that the American judiciary has the duty of protecting the minorities. On the other hand, race relations law represents an intrusion of the people’s rights to conduct personal affairs. In both nations, the Race Relations Act cuts into the traditional universal law right although a further re-orientation is evident in Britain. Both countries also believe that people should not blindly adhere to the principles of formal equality as some case of racial discrimination cannot be easily identified. The British legal system is regarded to be faulty in handling the concepts and processes associated with the Race Relations Act which is considered integral in the American civil rights law.


In conclusion, United Kingdom ensures that people understand the legal framework concerning diversity, quality, rights, and discrimination as contained in the Equality Act 2010. Notably, the Race Relations Act 1976 has been emphasised as it created the basis for eliminating racial discrimination along ethnic, sex, sexual orientation, country of origin, and race lines. The Race Relations Act in the UK has been amended several times to ensure that people get equal employment and education opportunities as well as fair treatment. Additionally, public organisations are required to observe the statutory law by presenting all the employees with a vision of fair and equal service. Creating a culture that supports equality and challenges discrimination should be the goal of every organisation that aims at treating people equally regardless of their racial backgrounds. Various agencies and institutions are encouraged to work together to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. Therefore, the United Kingdom has continuously supported policies that support equality, diversity, and eliminate all forms of discrimination.

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