Race for Equality

It’s time for a serious conversation about racism in the NHS. Our Race for Equality campaign is equipping UNISON branches to get active and tackle racism in the workplace.

More than 70 years after it was founded the NHS continues to rely on staff from all round the world, and generations of Black staff have made the NHS what it is today.

Read our COVID-19 advice for Black health workers

Yet many Black staff in the NHS still face the injustice of racism and inequality at work every day.

“If you ask most black people the honest truth is we experience this everyday –  there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t complain everyday you just get on with it.”

We want to help staff recognise and challenge racism in the workplace. We will support staff, and help them support each other as we work together to take on racism and deliver an NHS that respects and values all staff.

We will not stand by while Black staff in the NHS continue to face the injustice of racism and inequality at work. Racial discrimination is not only wrong – it is against the law. It wastes talent, damages staff, hurts patients, and holds the NHS back.

News story from UNISON Cymru/Wales: two-thirds of Black NHS workers have experienced racism at work

What you can do

  • Don’t suffer in silence – if you think it might be racism it probably is – talk to your UNISON branch about what’s been happening
  • Ask your branch what it’s doing to tackle racism
  • Get involved in UNISON’s Black members network

How far has your branch got in the race for equality?

If you’re just at the starting line here are some immediate actions branches can take:

1. COVID-19:

Read our guidance on risk assessments for Black workers (PDF) and review the NHS unions’ risk assessment principles (PDF). Ask your employer for regular consultation about implementation and review of risk assessment and reduction measures for Black staff.

Consider the impact these actions have had on staff, for example have staff been redeployed to roles that could affect their pay or career prospects? If so how can this be addressed? Ask for monitoring of COVID-19 sickness and self-isolation levels for Black staff to see if the risk reduction measures are working.

2. Improve skills and training:

Talk to your regional education officer about organising training for your activists to develop skills in having conversations about racism, supporting members and challenging racism in all its forms.

See Resources section below for information on courses to tackle racism.

3. Bullying and harassment:

Ask your employer to ensure that it has an effective policy and protocols for preventing and dealing with racist behaviour from patients and their visitors/families.

See Resources section below for our briefing on Bullying and Harassment.

4. Disciplinary action:

Monitor your own branch casework, check how many disciplinary cases involving Black workers your branch is dealing with and look for patterns for particular groups or in particular teams/settings – for example particular shifts, or a concentration of issues among Bank or agency staff.

See Resources section below for our briefing on Disciplinary Action.

5. Recruitment and career progression

Work with employers for an end to end review and update of recruitment and selection processes checking for where bias can creep in at every stage.

This includes where and how posts are advertised; assessment and scoring processes; and composition and diversity of interview panels. Where Black staff are shortlisted but not appointed ask for accountability measures to be put in place to scrutinise these outcomes.

Call out ‘tap on the shoulder’ type informal practices such as internal expressions of interest which mean opportunities only go to a narrow circle of staff.

You can find more detail on these and other actions branches can take in the resources at the bottom of this page

Download our Race for Equality branch briefing and leaflet below. You can order hard copies of the leaflet from our shop.

See Resources section below for our briefing on Recruitment, Career and Race

Download our Race for Equality branch briefing and leaflet in the Resources section below. You can order hard copies of the leaflet from our shop.

Race for Equality in action

Find out how UNISON branches have dealt with racism in the workplace.

Read more

Resources