Appendix 2 - Race Relations Act

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires ONS, as a government department, to have due regard to the general duty of the Act, and its specific duties, when carrying out its functions. The general duty, which is highly relevant to considering changes needed to the ethnic group question, means that ONS must have due regard to the need to:


  • eliminate unlawful racial discrimination;
  • promote equality of opportunity; and
  • promote good relations between people of different racial groups.

One of the elements taken into account by ONS is the leading role it plays in framing ethnic group categories, which are then used by over 43,000 public bodies across the UK. Public bodies often use the Census ethnicity question as a model for the collection of data for ethnic monitoring. The ethnic group categories of the Census are used by these public bodies to conduct ethnic monitoring.

Monitoring results are evidence of equality performance and enable public bodies to measure and improve equality outcomes for particular communities.

The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone on grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin. The Act protects all racial groups from discrimination.

The Census uses the term ‘ethnic group’ instead of ‘racial group’ since ONS research confirms that this term is more widely understood and accepted across all communities. Unlike ‘ethnic group’, the term ‘racial group’ has no legal definition.