Discrimination in the workplace
It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against its employees and workers due to any of the following protected characteristics, as stated under The Equality Act 2010:
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage or civil partnership
Discrimination can take one of many forms including direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.
Types of discrimination
Direct discrimination occurs where someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic. This means you would have to show that you were treated less favourably than someone without your protected characteristic whose circumstances do not materially differ to yours.
Indirect discrimination is concerned with decisions or arrangements that apply to everyone, but that actually put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage.
Victimisation is the act of treating someone unfairly because they have complained about discrimination.
Harassment relates to any unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which violates a person’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them.
If you have a disability, your employer must make reasonable adjustments to allow for your disability, which could include giving you extra time to complete tasks, or provide specialist computer equipment such as a mouse or provide information in alternative formats such as Braille or as audio.
When can discrimination happen
The law protects you against many situations at work where discrimination might arise, such as:
- being dismissed
- having less favourable employment terms and conditions
- having less favourable pay and benefits
- promotion and transfer opportunities
The law also protects you before you start work, if you experience any discrimination while being recruited for a job.
What can you do if you think you experience discrimination at work
If you think you have been discriminated against or harassed in your workplace, you may be able to secure financial compensation by bringing an employment discrimination claim in the employment tribunal. In contrast to other employment law related claims, discrimination cases are not contingent on length of service and can be initiated as early as during the recruitment process.
It is important to note that if you wish to make a claim for discrimination, you must do so within 3 months from the discriminatory act. It is therefore important that you seek legal advice from an employment solicitor at the earliest opportunity in order to try and negotiate a settlement.