What lessons can we learn from Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s handling of alleged racial discrimination?

Many will have seen the news about Azeem Rafiq, who played at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (‘YCCC’) between 2008-2018 and has blown the whistle on a number of separate incidents of alleged racial discrimination from both coaches and team mates. Mr Rafiq first spoke out in September 2020, when he told ESPN Cricinfo of the “institutional racism” he encountered whilst at YCCC which left him close to taking his own life.

The quantity and severity of the incidents have caused serious damage to YCCC’s reputation; however, it YCCC has also come in for significant criticism about the way they have handled the complaints, causing further damage. YCCC allegedly failed to address the incidents as they were reported and rather than take appropriate action, downplayed the incidents as “inappropriate behaviour” without disciplining any member of the club due to their actions or inaction.

What can employers learn from this?

As a starting point, employers should ensure that all employees are kept up to date with Equality and Diversity. This includes ensuring that all staff are aware of the key points of the Equality Act 2010 and the protection afforded for individuals due to protected characteristics, such as race.  Employers should be aware that they can be liable for the acts of their employees, agents and contractors, unless they can establish a ‘reasonable steps’ defence.

The reasonable steps defence may be established if employers can demonstrate that they have an Equality and Diversity (‘ED’) policy – which is also adhered to, staff have had ED training from the outset of their employment, along with refresher training and most importantly, that action is taken when the ED policy is breached.

If someone is being discriminated against, and disciplinary action is required, employers should ensure that they are investigating the matter urgently. In doing so, identifying and putting a stop to the behaviour and ensuring that the employee is protected from suffering from any further incidents, including retribution. The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures should be followed and any employee facing disciplinary action given an opportunity to defend themselves against any allegations at a disciplinary hearing.

It is important that employees are aware that employers will deal with any matter sensitively and appropriately, and that the allegations raised will be investigated seriously. Once an investigation has concluded, depending on the findings, appropriate action should then be taken against the perpetrators.

If you have any questions about how to handle allegations of discrimination, update your Equality and Diversity policy, provide training on Equality and Diversity or any other employment law queries, please contact our Employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494

This alert does not provide a full statement of the law and readers are advised to take legal advice before taking any action based on the information contained herein.

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