Experiences of Racism at Work

We recognise that communities are largely diverse and in terms of working in the health and social care setting, it is important to recognize characteristics that make people different from one other form the basis for inequality. Negative attitudes and beliefs form the basis for stereotyping, which places people into ‘communities of identity’, because of a similarity they each possess. Stereotyping can go on to become prejudice, which is an ‘advance judgement based on a stereotype’ (K101, Unit 11, p 145) which often leads to discrimination, if the discrimination is based on ethnic background or colour this becomes ‘racial discrimination’. It is important for institutional environments to recognise and respond to racial discrimination in the workplace as it affects a large amount of people such as Rosie Purves and Elvis Malcolm (K101, Unit 11).

Racism is a prejudiced belief and when acted upon become racial discrimination, Shah clarifies the distinction ‘prejudice generally refers to negative attitudes… discrimination describes negative actions directed against the persons who are its objects- the victims of prejudice (Shah, 1995 cited in Unit 11, 148). Using the case studies from the K101 materials to compare how institutional racism , has been affected by the diversities of society and developments in government care policy, we can observe how different workplace climates and their respective policies affect employees in terms of discouraging and challenging any form of discriminatory behaviour. Rosie Purves and Elvis Malcolm both experienced a form of racism in the workplace; however, evidence shows how implemented government care policy contributed to a positive outcome for Elvis, in contrast to Rosie’s negative experience.

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Rosie Purves experienced direct racial discrimination, at the NHS hospital where she worked, as defined in the ‘The Equality act 2010’ ‘ as where the reason for a person being treated less favourably than another is a protected characteristic listed in section 4; Race’ ( The Open University HSC Resource Bank,2012) .We know from evidence, that Rosie experienced Racism both intentionally from the mother of the child she was caring for, purely because of her ethic background and unintentionally by the nurses and NHS staff who worked alongside her’ Tribunal chairman Martin kurrein told the hearing that the Childs mother admitted she had ‘no problem’ with the care that Mrs Purves had provided but she was ‘a racist’ and did not want a black person to care for her child’( BBC News, 2004, Unit 11 p151) . Rosie was shocked and affected emotionally that she could be treated so inappropriately, which resulted in her becoming depressed and isolated; she did not feel of value in the workplace.

She knew it was not her care that the mother had problems with, but only her skin colour. The racism was not acknowledged and dealt with by the hospital or her colleagues, which made Rosie feel that her feelings were of no importance and that she were the problem, therefore making it appear that the hospital agreed with the treatment of Rosie Purves, which made the NHS trust ‘ institutionally racist’. The hospitals decision to agree with the mother’s request to move the child furthered Rosie’s experience of racism and added to her feeling that the hospital agreed with the mother treating her unfairly ‘Bhavnani et al (2005,p 150) argue that when people or organisations ignore racism, this is actually racism in another form’. Rosie felt ashamed at the way she had been treated, and therefore felt unable to speak out she says ‘I felt alone. I felt there was no one there for me really but i had to keep my chin up’ (Purves, 2004).

In contrast to this in Rosie’s additional job as a school nurse when she experienced discrimination, the head of department ‘…called the family in straightaway for a meeting. He was very stern and said that if there was any more abuse at the school the child would be asked to leave’ ( Purves, 2004). The school therefore had clear policies in place making it easy for Rosie to speak out and challenge the racist behaviour.

In contrast to Rosie’s experience of racism at the hospital , we hear Elvis Malcolm acknowledge that he does sometimes get treated differently at work because of his ethnic group he says ‘Sometimes you walk in the client’s house and as a black guy like when you go in there first, they have attitude’ (K101 DVD Audio 11.1). Elvis has a different attitude to being of the ‘minority ethnic’ he says ‘I see myself as a role model for other black people who will think about doing care’ (K101 DVD Audio 11.1). This positive attitude comes from the knowledge he has support and written policies to fall back on if work place racism and prejudice does occur, he feels able to challenge any comments made to him about his ethnic group.

In Rosie’s case she worked at the hospital where there was a lack of clear policy, there were no written guidelines or policies to access in situations such as this, which in turn creates fear of challenging the organisational climate amongst herself and her work colleagues who probably felt powerless to do anything. Written policies and training would reverse this attitude and make the health and social care setting more inclusive. Gunaratnam agrees that written policies make it easier to talk about racism and deal with it, ‘Equal opportunities have a vital role to play….. but real change can only be accomplished by the development of an organizational culture and climate that not only empowers staff to speak out, but also recognizes that working towards race equality can feel threatening’ (Gunaratnam 2000, K101 Unit 11, p 154) .

To make health and social care workplace settings more inclusive, anti discriminatory legislation should be introduced, such as the ‘Equality Act’, this would promote equality of opportunity; this information should be accessible to everyone and in different languages to include everyone. Managers play a key role in making sure unlawful racial discrimination is not accepted, therefore ensuring good relationships form between people from different ethnic groups, the workplace climate should be an open and inclusive organisational one offering relevant training. Employees should be aware free legal advice from organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau is available. A good example of an inclusive work climate is the ‘somebody Cares Agency’ where manager Julie Borek, was fully aware of equal opportunities and found that by employing workers from a variety of backgrounds, she was more able to meet a variety of service users needs such as age, religious and language needs, gender and ethnicity of the care worker displaying an understanding of organisational diversity.

Health and social care communities contain a wide mix of people and so diversity is an important issue. Valuing diversity involves recognising and accepting that people have differences. Setting up policies and boundaries for care receivers and caregivers to respect would avoid and challenge prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping. Rosie and Elvis’s institutional work place climates are in contrast and this is indicated in how each person experienced workplace racism.

For Rosie the lack of clear policy in the hospital, made it uncomfortable for herself, or any work colleagues to acknowledge and challenge what was going on. If the NHS hospital where Rosie worked had taken, the diversity approach Rosie’s colleagues would have felt able to challenge the racist behaviour sooner ‘The ward staff would probably have felt powerless to challenge the consultant paediatrician’ (K101 Unit 11, p 158). Rosie was isolated depressed and unable to carry on her with her work. Should clear policies and procedures such as ‘The Race Relations Act 1976’ had been made aware of she would have felt able to report the situation sooner and not had to live with the effects of such a distressing incident for so long before seeking help. Rosie did win her racial discrimination case but says ‘I’m relieved about the verdict but this whole experience has knocked my confidence. It has made me self-conscious. I’m in turmoil when meeting new parents- I wonder will they accept me’ (Purves, 2004).

In contrast to her work at the school where clear policies made her feel comfortable about speaking out and challenging the racism the work climate showed similarities to Elvis’s inclusive environment, where anti-discriminatory legislation and workplace policies were the framework, diversity was accepted and talked about therefore making any issues easy to address. From this evidence, we can conclude that to be able to work in a health and social care institutional setting, clear written policies need to be in place and made accessible to all in order to avoid prejudice discrimination and stereotyping such as ‘The Equality Act 2010’. Managers play a key role in setting the organisational climate and diversity in relation to communities of diverse needs. We have seen from the research in the K101 materials that when this is set in place employees feel able to challenge any racist behaviour.


Purves R. (2004), ‘Racist abuse ruined my life’ in Johnson .J and De Souza, C (eds) (2010), Understanding Health and Social Care; An Introductory Reader,2nd edition, London, Sage/ Milton Keynes, The Open University.

The Open University (2010) K101 ‘An Introduction to Health and Social Care’ Unit 11, DVD Audio 11.1 ,’ Responding to diversity at the somebody cares agency’ Milton Keynes, The Open University.

The Open University (2010), K101 ‘An Introduction to Health and Social Care’ Unit 11,’ Diverse communities and resources for care’ Milton Keynes, The Open University.

The Open University, HSC Resource Bank (2012) Law Information (online), The Open University.

Part B.

1. I have built up a care relationship with Mina so I could find out if the ‘cooking pot’ was of interest to her and why and whether it would meet the practical and personal needs Mina has. I discussed barriers such as language, self esteem, childcare and transport, and how these affect her and her family I also discussed with her how these can be overcome.

2. Practical issues; would transport be needed? Would a translator be needed? Are the group times appropriate to meet Mina and her family’s needs? Would childcare be provided at the group for all three children and their different ages? Personal issues; would Mina feel more comfortable if I arranged to go along? Would Mina prefer someone from the same background to attend with her?

3. I have developed a care relationship with Mina I have provided ‘active support’ by encouraging Mina to make her own choices and do as much for herself as possible to take control of her life and independence, it is important that I don’t lead her to a decision, therefore I have supported Mina in ‘Maximising her potential’.

4. I have supported Mina in expressing her views and preferences, I have taken time to listen to Mina, and found out information to meet her needs then shared it with her so she could then let Mina make her own decisions so that Mina stayed in control, therefore I have supported Mina in ‘having a voice and being heard’.

5. I have helped Mina identify and communicate her needs to me, supported her in finding suitable services I explored different options to meet Minas needs, I have taken into account practical and personal issues and made sure necessary arrangements are in place, therefore I have ‘ Supported Minas rights to appropriate services’.

Part C

1. The aspects of my study I am most pleased with are the progression, in my assignment writing and time management.

2. I have found the most difficulty in academic writing, taking notes as I read, sticking to the assignment question, I have found referencing hard to get used to.

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Experiences of Racism at Work. (2017, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/experiences-racism-work/