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AOP launches campaign against racism and discrimination in optics   

Association of Optometrists launches campaign against racism and discrimination in optics

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is launching a new campaign against racism and other forms of discrimination in optics as one in four optometrists reveal that they have experienced or witnessed abuse in the last two years.

The figures come from the largest sector survey of its type focused on equality, diversity and inclusion in which 1105 members took part.

The 100% Respect campaign encourages every member of the practice team to unite in support of a pledge to tackle discrimination and take action to create inclusive workplaces.

How to get involved

Make a pledge

It is important that everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is vocal on equality and encourages others to be the same. As part of the 100% Respect campaign, the AOP is asking those working in the profession to make a pledge to unite against all forms of discrimination.

Share a pledge to show 100% Respect and eliminate discrimination in eyecare.

Leaders’ commitments to inclusion 

Senior industry leaders are signing up to the AOP’s ‘Leaders’ commitments to inclusion’, and even greater support will help ensure that employers create safe working environments that protect staff from abuse, harassment or discrimination.

If you are a business or franchise owner you can demonstrate your commitment by signing up and following the AOP’s Guidance for employers.

Key statistics from the AOP’s equality, diversity and inclusion survey:

  • One in four optometrists experienced or witnessed discrimination at work in the last two years – yet 58% said they didn’t report the incident
  • Of those who had experienced discrimination, 80% said that it was ‘perpetrated by patients’; 37% said they had suffered abuse from colleagues and 36% attributed the behaviour to managers
  • Almost half (44%) of optometrists said they felt unable to report discrimination because they were either unsupported by management or had experienced negative consequences of reporting discrimination in the past – 18% felt unsafe to do so
  • Members experienced race discrimination more than any other form (60%) at work. But 36% also reported incidents relating to religion, 35% in relation to sexism and 33% in relation to their age. In 7% of cases discrimination related to disability and the same amount, in relation to pregnancy
  • Other forms of discrimination reported included being married or in a civil partnership (4%) sexual orientation (4%) and gender reassignment (2%)
  • 28% considered leaving the profession, or had left their job, because of discrimination they had experienced
  • In the survey, over half (54%) called for the AOP to work with employers to address equality, diversity and inclusion issues and 51% asked that more guidance and support is provided.

Adam Sampson, Chief Executive at the Association of Optometrists said: “The stark reality of this survey is that, for many eye care professionals across the UK, discrimination is commonplace in daily practice, and this needs to be tackled head on. The data and personal accounts our members have shared in the survey are deeply troubling – revealing abhorrent examples of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

Optometrists and every member of the optical team should be able to do their job without having to face or worry about abuse and discrimination at work. It is simply unacceptable that we’re hearing these kinds of experiences and is clearly not an issue that is going away without decisive action. We have a duty of care, as do the employers in the sector, to address the problem for those who have or are currently experiencing discrimination at work, so these behaviours and cultures do not continue.”

Fatima Nawaz, Optometrist and AOP Board and Council member said: “Sadly incidents of discrimination have been a fact of life for many practitioners in the industry and we know that many people feel unable to speak out for fear of being labelled as a ‘trouble-maker’ or losing their job. A huge part of why I joined the AOP Council is to make a difference in this area.”

Optometrist, Farah Topia, Clinical adviser for the Association of Optometrists and member of its Anti-Racism and Equality Team team said: “It’s sad to see that discrimination is prevalent in the optometric workplace. We know from our research that many people feel unable to speak out but it’s important that every employee feels able to talk about what they’ve experienced and seek advice. This is why we’re using our position, as the leading representative organisation for optometrists, to support our members in this area and create change through our guidance, employment services and campaigning.”

The Association of Optometrists is committed to creating safe working environments where every member of the practice team feels protected from discrimination. The 100% Respect campaign is working with employers across the sector to build on and improve equality and inclusion at work.

The AOP has also developed a range of advice and information for both employers and employees including a suite of resources that promote inclusivity, produced by the AOP’s expert legal and employment team.

The AOP’s Anti-racism and equality team (ARET), made up of AOP staff optometrists, provides emotional and practical support where an individual is facing discrimination. Alternatively, the AOP’s free-phone, Peer Support Line is available for members and non-members to speak confidentially.

The AOP’s employment team can advise members on discrimination and discuss members’ options with them.

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