Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is a vast, varied, and developing area of law. In this blog post we hope to provide you with an idea of the type of protection that is offered, and some available forms of legal redress.

The law in brief

The law provides protection if an employer discriminates against a person on the grounds of one or more of the following characteristics, labelled "Protected Characteristics" under the Equality Act 2010.

1. Age;

2. Race;

3. Sex;

4. Gender reassignment;

5. Marriage and civil partnership;

6. Pregnancy and maternity;

7. Sexual Orientation;

8. Religion or belief;

9. Disability.

It is important to establish whether you are classed as an “employee”, “worker” or other category (e.g. self-employed) as this will determine the scope of your rights. You will need to seek legal advice on this if you are unsure.

Discrimination can be experienced in the following ways:

  1. Directly;

  2. Indirectly;
  3. By harassment;
  4. By being victimised (e.g. by doing a protected act, i.e. alleging discrimination regarding yourself and/or another, and then suffering a detriment as a result of doing so).

Employers can, in certain instances, have a defence to discriminatory treatment e.g.:

  • If they can show that the implementation of a certain practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim;
  • If they can show that having a particular quality is an occupational requirement, as long as they can show such a requirement is proportionate (e.g. a Christian school requiring a Christian to teach Religious Education);
  • If they are required by law to be discriminatory e.g. refusing a job to a non-EU applicant because of their nationality.

What if the treatment is not obvious?

Sometimes the discrimination will not necessarily be blatant. For example, your employer has a policy which, on the face of it seems fair, but in fact has a different impact on you (due to one of the protected characteristics) and therefore you are disadvantaged. This could still be discrimination.

What you can do about it

1. Keep a record of events:

If you are suffering discriminatory treatment, then it is important to keep a contemporaneous and clear note of the incident(s). This will prove to be helpful evidence should you need to rely on it in any subsequent proceedings, and also will act as a log of the respective dates in which the acts/omissions took place.

2. Inform your manager:

Bringing the issue to the attention of management can provide opportunity for resolution with the perpetrator on an informal and/or formal basis. Your workplace may have a staff handbook which sets out the processes.

3. Inform Acas - the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service:

This is an independent service which acts to aid communication, negotiation and settlement of disputes. Should you be minded to bring an Employment Tribunal claim, then you will be required to engage with Acas's Early Conciliation process. Please click here for more information.

4. Issue an Employment Tribunal Claim:

This can be paper-based application or completed online. There is a fee to pay unless you qualify for a reduction or exemption. The application form for fee remission is EX160, with the accompanying guidance form being EX160A (available online).

Remember Time Limits

For the majority of discrimination claims, you would need to bring your claim within 3 months of the discriminatory act or omission. When there is a continuing act of discrimination, the 3 months do not start to run until the the discrimination ceases. An analysis of whether the treatment is continuous would need to be undertaken to establish this.

The time limit may be extended if you take part in the Acas Early Conciliation process. It is very important that you adhere to the applicable deadline otherwise your claim may be time-barred.

Contact Us Today

Here at Fiona Bruce LLP we have an experienced and dedicated employment team, committed to ensuring you are looked after and your dispute is brought to swift conclusion. Please contact us on 01925 263 273 or legal@fionabruce.co.uk for a no-obligation initial appointment and/or quotation. We look forward to hearing from you.

Post By: Fiona Rugg


Article Disclaimer

This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice.  You should not rely on the information in this article.  Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article.  Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website.  Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.


Posted on January 26, 2015 and filed under Employment Law.