The UK’s current preoccupation with all matters Brexit is, in part, underpinned by a global phenomenon – migration. Migrancy gives rise to calls for higher fences in parts of Europe and the USA because of a fear response to culture change, personal security, job threats and subsequent claims of erosion of national identities.
Economic, as well as geopolitical crises, are driving the movement of people from all corners of the world, leading the International Labour Organization (ILO) to claim 150 million people are now migrant workers. However, this is not new.
Events from history show us that peoples have always sought refuge in the face of war and have wanted better job opportunities for themselves and their families when local economic conditions cannot support them. However, in doing so, they often encounter discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.
In 1948, the arrival in London of the ship the ‘Empire Windrush’ from Jamaica resulted in exclusion from social and economic life for many West Indians, with many being met by signs in tenanted windows of 'No Irish; No Blacks; No Dogs'.
Such signs were regarded as commonplace, and while they may have disappeared from sight, deep-seated discriminatory beliefs are once again at risk of becoming more common, partly in response to the image of migrancy.
While these views are often commented upon at the macro-societal level, it is not surprising that such beliefs find themselves creeping into British workplaces.
Research I have been involved with has variously shown ethnic minorities, women, disabled and lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people all encounter higher levels of bullying compared to peoples without these identities. But this poses an interesting question; what comes first – discrimination or bullying?
There is, sadly, a lack of real evidence that tackles this question and I shall be raising this when I speak at the 10th International Conference on Bullying and Harassment in Auckland, New Zealand in April.
If research tells us that certain groups of people report higher levels of workplace bullying, then it is important that we establish if they believe their experiences of bullying are because they are first and foremost victims of discrimination.
Whereas the UK has a relatively well-established tradition of anti-discrimination workplace legislation stretching back to the early 1970s, now encompassed in the 2010 Equality Act, the current and previous UK governments made no secret of their desires to make further changes to the Human Rights Act, replacing this with a British Bill of Rights.
Other changes have seen the Employment Tribunal service introduce fees of up to £1,200 to have a case heard for an employment issue such as discrimination or harassment. When the fee was introduced in 2013, there was a decrease of 64 per cent in claims submitted the following year.