Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace can happen at any time, to anyone. Knowing how to identify discrimination and understanding your rights is crucial to ensure you do not suffer from inappropriate behaviour and actions. If you feel like you’re being discriminated against at work, keep on reading to see what options you have.

What are Protected Characteristics?

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination against the following.

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religions or beliefs
  • Married or civil partnership
  • Sex

These are known as protected characteristics, and the law protects you from being discriminated against in the workplace. You are also protected in education, as a consumer and when using public services. The protection also includes buying or renting a property and if you are part of a club or private association.

You are also protected from discrimination if a family or friend has protected characteristics, or if you have made a complaint or supported somebody else’s claim against discrimination.

Discrimination at work

The law also protects you from discrimination at work; this can be any of the following:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Promotion and relocation opportunities
  • Dismissal
  • Training
  • Disability
  • Recruitment
  • Redundancy

Disability at work

Companies are responsible for providing fair and equal treatment to disabled workers; this includes providing reasonable adjustments for job applications.

Examples include providing application forms in braille or audio formats. Allowing for extra time to complete tests and offering specialised interview arrangements like wheelchair access.

What are the different types of discrimination?

When being in the workplace or elsewhere, discrimination can take place in many forms and may not seem too obvious to most. Knowing the different types can help you understand more.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs when someone is explicitly treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic. For example, not hiring a woman due to family commitments, i.e. having a child.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination is when a rule or policy puts a particular group at a disadvantage. One example could be discriminating against religions and beliefs by not allowing members of staff to wear a headscarf or hijab.

What is discrimination against association?

Discrimination against association is discrimination against someone who is associated with someone who has a protected characteristic. For example, making inappropriate comments about a friend or family member’s sexual orientation.

What is harrassment?

Harassment is creating a degrading, humiliating and offensive environment towards an individual or group.

An example of harassment can be a co-worker continuously making sexual remarks towards an individual or group.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation is when an individual or group are treated unfavourably due to making a complaint or supporting a case, under the Equality Act 2010.

One example could be a team leader making degrading comments about someone who made a complaint under the Equality Act 2010 and accusing them of overreacting.

What is discrimination by perception?

Discrimination by perception is an individual or group mistreating someone due to assumptions being made about protected characteristics, even if they do not have one.

This could be someone making remarks about someone’s sexual orientation due to comments being made in the office.

What to do if you are discriminated against at work

If for whatever reason you feel like you are being discriminated against at work, then the best thing to do is to act upon it. There are ways to approach this, especially if you feel like you are unable to complain directly to the person or company.

  • You can raise it against the person or the organisation.
  • You can raise an alternative dispute resolution, whereby you can use somebody else to complain.
  • You can make a claim in the court or tribunal.

The steps to making a claim against discrimination at work

If possible, try and resolve the dispute informally at work. This could be sitting down with the person in question and expressing that their behaviour was inappropriate. If things cannot be resolved informally, then report it to a trade union representative, Citizens Advice or Acas.

The more evidence you have, the better. Take witness statements and document any conversations may have had.You are also entitled to make a claim against discrimination at an Employment Tribunal too.

You may also be eligible for legal aid support to help assist with costs. GOV UK has an online assessment form to see if you are entitled to support.

Maybe it is time to look for another job? Keep reading to find out what other workers rights you have.

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