Key points

  • The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) which replaced the former Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission, was established by section 43 of the Race Relations Act 1976. The CRE has at least eight (but not more than 15) Commissioners, including a chairman and one or more deputy chairmen, all appointed on a full-time or part-time basis by the Secretary of State for Employment.

  • The duties of the CRE are to work towards the elimination of racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups. It monitors observance of the 1976 Act and is empowered to conduct investigations, serve non- discrimination notices, and to apply to the court for an injunction or order against persistent offenders. The CRE may also issue codes of practice containing practical guidance on methods for the elimination of discrimination in the field of employment.

Power of the CRE to obtain information

  • The CRE may order an employer to furnish written information about his employment policies and practices or serve notice on him to appear before the Commission at a specified time and place (bringing with him any and all documents relating to the matters specified in the notice). If an employer refuses or fails to cooperate, the CRE may apply to a county court (or, in Scotland, the sheriff court) for an order directing him to comply. If an employer wilfully alters, suppresses, conceals or destroys any document that he has been ordered to produce, or knowingly or recklessly makes any statement that is false in a material particular, he is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to £5,000.

Non-Discrimination Notices

  • If, in the course of a formal investigation, the CRE are satisfied that an employer is committing (or has committed) an unlawful discriminatory act, they may serve on him a 'Non-Discrimination Notice' ordering him to comply with the law and cautioning him that, if there is any repetition during the next five years, the matter will be placed in the hands of the county (or sheriff) court.

  • The CRE will not normally serve a Non-Discrimination Notice on an employer without first warning him of the possibility (and the legal implications) and giving him 28 days within which to put his side of the story (orally or in writing). An employer has six weeks within which to appeal to an employment tribunal (or, where appropriate, to a designated county or a sheriff court) against any requirement of a Non- Discrimination Notice on the ground either that it is unreasonable (because it is based on an incorrect finding of fact) or for any other reason. In the event, the court will either confirm or quash the requirement or substitute a new requirement.

Help for persons suffering racial discrimination

  • An employee (or job applicant) who has already registered a complaint of unlawful racial discrimination with an employment tribunal (or who is contemplating doing so) may apply to the CRE for help and advice. The CRE will usually agree to help if the case is unduly complex or raises a question of principle, or if there are any other special considerations. Their help may include procuring (or attempting to procure) an out-of-court settlement (eg, by a direct approach to the employer in question); arranging for the giving of advice by a solicitor or counsel; or, in the final analysis, seeing to it that the employee is adequately represented at the tribunal hearing.