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What is discrimination at work?

Discrimination is where a person is treated differently or less favourably because of one or more of their protected characteristics. The Equality Act 2010 states that organisations should have policies in place to improve equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and other job applicants, but most importantly to prevent discrimination.

Under the Act it is against the law to discriminate against people in the workplace due to the following nine protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation 

Who can be discriminated against at work?

Discrimination is an unfortunate yet unquestionable trait of today’s working environment which can happen to anyone, including:

  • Employees
  • Job applicants
  • Trainees
  • Contract workers
  • Office holders
  • People who are self-employed

To avoid employment tribunals, employers should keep up to date with the law on discrimination to ensure that employees feel safe and fairly treated whilst in the workplace.

What is Direct Discrimination at work?

Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination is where you are directly treated unequally because of one of the protected characteristics you have. This could be where a driving job is advertised, which states that it is only available to male applicants. 

What is Indirect Discrimination at work?

Indirect discrimination can be less obvious. Occasionally, a policy, rule or practice seems fair because it seems to apply to everyone equally; however a closer look shows that some employees are being treated unfairly. This is because some people or groups of people are unable/less able to comply with the rule or are disadvantaged because of it. An example of indirect discrimination would be where an employer has a policy that does not permit any staff to work part-time. This could be seen as discriminating towards mothers who normally take the main responsibility for dealing with their children, which puts them at a disadvantage.

Both types of discrimination are against the law, whether it is done on purpose or not. 

What is harassment at work?

Harassment can be defined as offensive or intimidating behaviour including sexist language or racial abuse directed towards you.

You have the right not to be harassed or made fun of at work or in a work related situation, like at an office party.  An example of this would be allowing displays or distribution of offensive material or giving someone an offensive nickname.

What is victimisation at work?

Victimisation is where unfavourable treatment against you occurs because you have complained of discrimination or supported a claim of discrimination. For example, victimisation could be preventing you going on training courses, excluding you from work social events or taking unfair disciplinary action against you.

Legal advice about discrimination at work

For more information, speak to one of our specialist employment lawyers at our offices in Leicester, Hinckley and Market Harborough, where we will be happy to help you with advice relating to discrimination in the workplace.

Leicester 0116 254 8871

Hinckley 01455 639 900

Market Harborough 01858 467 181