NHS organisations need to do more to tackle workplace racism and discrimination that holds back black and ethnic minority nurses and other staff, says the country’s largest union.
The call comes alongside the publication today of a new resource designed to help staff ensure their employer is living up to the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard, which was introduced last year.
“This is about giving people the confidence to be able to challenge discrimination”
The Race Ahead in Health toolkit, drawn up by Unite, encourages union reps and others to take a closer look at recruitment processes, disparities in pay, opportunities for career progression and development within an organisation, and policies on bullying and harassment.
It states that managers and team members should get training in equality and diversity, and organisations should consider offering targeted training or coaching to black and ethnic minority workers to help them climb the career ladder.
To accompany and support the new toolkit, the union is also offering free training places to NHS managers and staff.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said there was currently a mixed picture among trusts regarding positive action to tackle discrimination.
“Certain trusts are very good and have really led the way in taking on this issue and putting measures in place to address it,” he told Nursing Times.
“Some trusts have plans and good intentions and want to take things forward, while others have intentions but haven’t really got round to putting plans in place and need guidance, help and a kickstart,” he said.
“Then there are some trusts who don’t do anything about it or have tried, but some of the issues are very entrenched and they can’t figure a way out and have no idea where to start,” he noted.
“Discrimination, bullying and harassment is bad for everyone that works in the NHS”
Mr Jarrett-Thorpe highlighted that discrimination was a big issue for nurses, given that they were the largest staffing group in the NHS and many were women.
“Research suggests that if you’re a black nurse, it will take you almost three years longer to achieve the same status or grade as a white nurse,” he said.
“This is also a women’s issue,” he said. “Black and Asian women are discriminated against and also more likely to be disciplined – sometimes it is as much as 50% more likely that a BME female nurse will be disciplined compared to a white nurse.”
However, he added that NHS staff and managers could find it hard to pinpoint and challenge racism and discrimination.
“Some people see racism and discrimination in the workplace and don’t know what to do, how to challenge it or how to identify it and take things forward,” he said.
“So, this is about giving people the confidence to be able to challenge discrimination and understand concepts like unconscious bias and how their behaviour impacts on others,” said Mr Jarrett-Thorpe.
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“This is not about looking at the issues in an isolated bubble – discrimination, bullying and harassment is bad for everyone that works in the NHS,” he added.
He said he hoped the toolkit would help organisations to implement and monitor action plans, and that staff would discuss the document in team meeting and union meetings.
The aim was to reach a wider audience beyond HR professionals and those with specific responsibility for promoting inclusion and diversity, he stressed.
He said Unite was also keen to work “in partnership” with employers to deliver training to groups of 10 or more.
“It is all very well to have an action plan but you want to make sure those action plans are being implemented and monitored,” he added.
“This is raising awareness of what the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard is and how it could practically improve the lives of many working people and ultimately improve patient care,” he said.