Is it lawful for an employer to refuse to employ me because of my race?

It is unlawful to refuse you employment on the grounds of your race, either directly or indirectly, by putting in place requirements that would be more difficult for you to comply with than a member of another racial group.

The only exception to this protection is where there is some reason connected with the job itself, or circumstances where there is a genuine need to appoint a person of one particular race. This is known as a Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR). It is very difficult to think of a GOR in the context of race.

The only exception might be where there is a genuine need for authenticity in, say, a theatrical role. But even here, the idea that a film or theatre part must be played by a person of a particular colour or race is becoming outdated, assisted by campaigns such as actors' union Equity’s Play Fair campaign for inclusive casting. The campaign challenges persistent under-representation of black and minority ethnic and disabled actors in the creative industry, and discriminatory practices in the casting process.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle