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13 November 2014
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Josie d'Arby and race investigation

Josie d'Arby investigates discrimination

Racial discrimination

Racial discrimination is happening in housing and employment agencies according to evidence uncovered by BBC Inside Out West. Some letting agents and employment agencies are still willing to discriminate against ethnic minority groups.

Inside Out contacted a number of employment and letting agencies in the West of England to investigate the extent of discrimination.

Of 30 employment temping agencies contacted, 25 agreed to a request for a receptionist job to be offered only to white workers.

Seventeen out of 30 letting agencies also said they were happy not to show families from an ethnic minority background a particular house for rent.

Under the Race Relations Act it is unlawful for employers and landlords to discriminate in such a way.

Blatant discrimination

Professor Tariq Modood, of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, said: "I'm surprised how many people were willing to go along with the suggestion, a very blatant suggestion, of discrimination.

Tariq Madood

Professor Tariq Madood - race concerns.

"It's greater than I would have expected. Past surveys have tended to suggest maybe a third of people will discriminate - and you have found that it is greater than that."

An Inside Out West researcher first posed as a landlord with a two-bedroom family house to rent.

He said he did not want anyone from an ethnic minority background as a tenant.

The following are extracts from some of those calls:

Researcher: "Is that something we can do?"

Agency: "We can't really say that but we can do it, if you see what I mean."

Agency: "You have to be careful sort of saying that because it can get us into all sorts of trouble. Obviously there's ways and means of controlling that situation."

Researcher: "You can tell [your staff] not to bother?"

Agency: "Yeah."

Researcher: "Don't bother showing them round because all that will do is waste their time. They will come to me and I'll say no."

Agency: "Yeah."

Agency: "We would try and distract them, that it's not suitable for them, but obviously we have other ways of not making it available to them."

Racial motivations

A spokeswoman for the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the regulatory body for the industry, said: "A lettings agent simply cannot assist a landlord with refusing a tenant due to racial motivations.

Josie d'Arby

Discrimination - uncovered by our team.

"Our code of conduct makes it very clear that any form of discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

Next, our researcher passed himself as a potential employer looking for a temporary receptionist, who he insisted, had to be white.

What follows are the agency staff's answers to our request.

Agency: "That's fine. You are not allowed to say it but, no, we certainly hear what you say. That's not a problem."

Agency: "It's difficult with the accent over the phone isn't it? I understand that, yeah, Shouldn't really say that but taken on board."

Agency: "We'll ignore it and pretend you didn't say it but listen to what you said, if you see what I mean."

Agency: "OK. You are not supposed to tell me that but I will forget you did (laughter) but bear it in mind."

Researcher: "Just send through white."

Agency: "Yep. Normal people."

Little progress

We showed the transcripts of the calls to Alex Lock, an employment law specialist.

Paul Stephenson

Paul Stephenson - race campaigner.

He said: "We have here clear evidence of discriminatory requests being made and agencies quite prepared to collude with them.

"Until people stand up and make it clear that a) it is discrimination and b) it is wrong and they are not going to go along with it, we really aren't going to address this as a problem."

Veteran race campaigner Paul Stephenson, who fought against the Bristol Bus Company's ban on black drivers in the 1960s, said: "It shows you the enormity of the problem.

"It's enormously frustrating to learn how seriously little progress we have made."

We took our evidence to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents 8,000 agencies and 6,000 recruitment professionals.

Direct discrimination

Tom Hadley, director of external relations, said: "What you have shown me is clearly unacceptable. It's examples of direct discrimination.

"We would expect agencies within the REC membership to challenge that kind of discriminatory instruction and to walk away from the business if they had to - because that is how seriously we take this particular issue.

"It shows there's still a lot of work we need to do.

"We will not tolerate this kind of discriminatory behaviour and we are going to do something about it."

last updated: 21/01/2009 at 15:35
created: 14/01/2009

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