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Brushed Aside: Racial Based Hair Discrimination

A campaign is underway in the UK to heighten the recognition of racial based hair discrimination and to seek to eradicate work and school uniform/dress policies that discriminate against those from ethnic minorities due to their hair texture.

This is an often overlooked area of discrimination within the UK, which admittedly I was ignorant to until recent years; perhaps as my hair meets the societal beauty standard that is straight textured hair and as I attended a small school in North Wales where the pupils were primarily Caucasian and the uniform policy was limited to acceptable footwear and skirt length and I as I have been employed by law firms who value diversity within the workplace.

  • However, whilst many in the UK remain ignorant to such discrimination, research conducted by Dove UK in 2020 found that:
  • 1 in 4 black adults have been sent home from work or faced disciplinary action as a result of wearing their hair in a natural or protective style,
  • Nearly 2/3 of black adults have faced hair discrimination,
  • More than half of black children have been sent home from school due to wearing their hair in a natural or protective style.

There have been numerous reports in recent years about black children being sent home from school for having a hairstyle that were prohibited under the school uniform policy. One story in particular that struck me was a black child being sent home from school as her afro style hair was deemed to be of style and length that the school considered to obstruct other pupils from viewing the white board in class. She successfully sued her school with the assistance of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group for Racial Equality in Education together with the Equality and Human Rights Commission have now launched a survey that is open for the public to complete about their experiences with hair discrimination until 16th August 2022. The results of the survey will assist to establish national guidelines on dress/uniform policies in schools that ought to be brought into place to coincide with the school year in September 2022.

Hodge Jones & Allen wholly supports the introduction of a national policy as it is vital to ensure consistency in such uniform/dress policies throughout schools in the UK. Whilst the mainstream press is not publicising the issues and it largely remains brushed aside, we urge our colleagues and clients who have been affected by hair discrimination to complete the survey using the link below before 16th August 2022.

In the meantime, any such policies that discriminates based on racial hair is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. This is race is a protected characteristic and as afro textured hair is inherently linked to race.

If you have been discriminated against based on your race, our Housing discrimination team are here to assist you – call us on 0330 822 3451 or request a call back.