Discrimination at work


Discrimination at work can occur in a number of forms. It can relate to your employment conditions, pay and benefits, promotion and training opportunities, as well as selection for redundancy or dismissal. Workplace discrimination can damage your career and personal life.

Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot normally discriminate based on:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Being transgender
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or a mother
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation

The Act prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination arises when less-favourable treatment is given to a particular employee or group of employees, for example in expressly restricting a promotion to people of a certain race. As the term suggests, direct discrimination is generally a more obvious form of discrimination, and can be easy to prove if witnesses at your work place can be called on for evidence.

Indirect discrimination is generally more subtle and therefore more difficult to prove. For example, an employer may request all staff to be clean shaven, which clearly puts certain religious groups at a disadvantage. Indirect discrimination occurs if the requirement or condition imposed makes it more difficult for a particular group of people to comply with, and is not a justifiable prerequisite for the job.

However, some forms of discrimination are permissible where there is a good business reason.

First steps

Generally the first step in facing discrimination in the workplace is to take informal procedures, such as discussing your concerns with the person who is treating you unfairly, approaching a supervisor, or following the internal grievance procedures of your employer.

If this does not resolve the issue, or if you do not feel comfortable using these avenues, a solicitor can advise you what your legal position will be if your complaint is not successful and how to present a discrimination claim to an employment tribunal. Specific time limits apply which vary depending on the type of claim.

If you are successful in a discrimination application before an employment tribunal you may be awarded compensatory damages. Compensation can include damages for hurt feelings and the loss of the chance of the job. The damages can also be increased if the employer's behaviour was insulting or malicious.

Alternatively, the tribunal may recommend that the employer take action to correct the situation or limit the damage done to the applicant. However, the tribunal cannot force the employer to employ or promote the employee.

In many cases, early action means solicitors can help you negotiate an out-of-court compensation settlement with your employer before the case reaches the tribunal stage.

Contact Law works with employment solicitors specialised in discrimination law that can help you reach a solution. For a confidential recommendation, please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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