Challenging Racism


Glenn  Carrington

Peterborough Station Rep
Black Members Officer
Unison 20106.


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.

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.”

The Unison Eeast branch 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.

In UNISON, equality is part of our DNA. Challenging discrimination and winning equality are fundamental to everything we do.

NHS staff are there to help everyone in every community and treat them with respect, dignity and fairness. UNISON believes they should expect the same treatment in return.

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.

“If you say someone is being racist, immediately you are the problem”

Racism in numbers

  • 19% of the workforce are Black* but only 7% of senior managers are Black
  • White applicants are 1.45 times more likely to be appointed from shortlisting than Black applicants
  • Black staff are 1.24 times more likely to enter formal disciplinary process
  • 28% of Black staff experienced harassment bullying or abuse from other staff in last 12 months, compared with 23% of white staff
  • Only 72% of Black staff believe their employer provides equal opportunities for career progression/promotion, compared with 87% of white staff.

(Figures from the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) 2018. The WRES data uses Black and Minority Ethnic (BME). UNISON uses the more political and inclusive term Black.)

These figures are for England – this data is not collected in the same way in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but there is no reason to think the pattern would be significantly different in any country.

“Overly supervised; micromanaged, what I was doing always had a problem with it”

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
  • Get involved in UNISON’s Black members network
  • Challenge anything that you experience or witness makes you feel uncomfortable (eg abusive language, name calling, ‘banter’/’jokes’, mimicry etc)
  • Challenge racist posts on social media
  • Talk to your branch about organising training or workshops on how best to tackle racism
  • Be part of the conversation about racism – listen to others or tell your own story

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

Read one branch’s story about how they tackled racism in the workplace

Download our Race for Equality branch briefing and leaflet in the Resources section below. You will also find guides to help you plan work on particular topics such as tackling racism within disciplinary processes; recruitment and career progression; and racial bullying and harassment. You can order hard copies of the leaflet from our shop.

Watch Show Racism the Red Card‘s film Challenging Racism in the Workplace.