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Workplace misconduct platform reports rise in coronavirus-related racial discrimination

More people are experiencing racial discrimination at work since the spread of Covid-19

Clients of a confidential workplace misconduct reporting platform have witnessed an “uptick” in coronavirus-related racial discrimination.

Vault Platform is a secure end-to-end platform for reporting workplace misconduct ranging from sexual harassment and racial discrimination to corporate or financial misconduct.

According to Vault CEO and founder Neta Meidav, in order to protect the integrity of the system, the company has no access to its customers’ data, instead relying on anecdotal evidence from its clients to understand reporting trends on the platform.

“Our clients are telling us there has been an uptick in cases of coronavirus-related discrimination on a racial basis,” said Meidav, adding that this has been the most prominent reporting trend since mid-February.

In the UK, trade unions such as the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (Bectu) have highlighted a rise in discrimination linked to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, particularly against people of Chinese heritage.

And in its official Coronavirus guidance for employers and employees, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) told employers to look out for bullying, discrimination or harassment of any kind during the outbreak.  

“Employers must not single anyone out unfairly,” it said. “For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.”

Meidav said the problem of workplace discrimination, particularly against those of Asian appearance, will not go away as organsiations move to more distributed forms of working during the crisis.

She pointed to a survey conducted by Totaljobs which found that nearly one-third (30%) of UK workers have been victims of discrimination over communication channels such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

All reporting through Vault can be done anonymously, with different user types ring-fenced from each other to protect the identities of those making the complaints, or as a group with the platform’s Go Together feature, which allows users to jointly gather evidence and file a claim.

“We found that those individuals will be up to eight times more likely to come forward if they know they weren’t the only ones waiting,” said Meidav, pointing out that the platform has now added a Covid-19 reporting feature that allows human resources (HR) departments to track who in their company has the virus.

“Essentially, it allows companies to be on top of the numbers and know how many people have been impacted, but also to create this [trusted] line of communication [while people work from home],” she said.

“Again, people might want to utilise the anonymous option for doing that, because maybe I have a question and I don’t want to identify myself. Although we are seeing a rise in race-related discrimination, we are also seeing discrimination against those who have contracted the virus, or even just showing symptoms.”

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Citing a 2019 Future of work report by international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, which found that 80% of enterprises expect to see a rise in “workplace activism”, Meidav said companies need to focus on repairing the “deficit of trust internally” going forward.

“Specifically, the research shows that companies are worried about employees taking their grievances and venting them on social media,” she said.

“That shows employers understand that people are more likely to talk about issues they are experiencing at work on Twitter or LinkedIn than they are to come forward to their employers and fix it from within.”

Meidav said she hopes Vault can help solve this by creating lines of communication that empower people to come forward against abusive behaviour and raise the issue internally.

Vault was established in 2017 when sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein started to become public knowledge, kick-starting the #MeToo movement.

Meidav, who has first-hand experience of workplace sexual harassment, realised that many HR departments rely exclusively on “hotlines” or online forms to process allegations of misconduct, which can leave issues unresolved for months or even years.

On top of this, there is often no guarantee of anonymity throughout the reporting process, forcing many people not to report incidents for fear of repercussions from their employer.

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