Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination laws protect a wide range of individuals including employees, job applicants, workers, contractors, partners and LLP members.

MSRS-Discrimination at work

It’s unlawful to discriminate because of a protective characteristic (see list below). Harassment or bullying related to any of these protected characteristics is also against the law.

We have worked with a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds and business sectors on discrimination claims. We are aware that cases involving discrimination are often complex. So, if you believe that you’re suffering discrimination at work, you should obtain expert legal advice from the outset.

The Protected Characteristics

Under, the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for you to be discriminated against in the workplace because of a protected characteristic. The nine protected characteristics are as follows:

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

The Various Types of Discrimination in the Workplace

Direct discrimination occurs when somebody is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic (see list above), for example if you are not offered a job because of your sexual orientation.

Indirect discrimination occurs where a practice, policy or rule is applied to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on a group of people with a particular protected characteristic than on others. The Equality Act 2010 talks about it putting them at a particular disadvantage. An individual member of the group who is disadvantaged by the practice, policy or rule can bring a claim. For example, if an employer requires all employees to work until 6pm every evening, this may disadvantage women who tend to have more childcare responsibilities than men. A woman with young children who is required to work until 6pm could bring a claim, arguing that she has suffered indirect sex discrimination. To defend the claim, the employer would need to be able to show that it has a real business need justifying the particular practice, policy or rule and that it could not be achieved in a less discriminatory way. This is known in legal terms as the employer having to show objective justification.

Harassment occurs where, for example, a person is made to feel upset, humiliated or intimidated by the behaviour of one or more of their colleagues and the behaviour is related to a protected characteristic. Examples include spreading rumours about someone’s sexuality, excluding someone from group activities because they are disabled and engaging in racist or sexist banter.

Sexual Harassment occurs where, for example, a person is made to feel intimidated, humiliated, upset or offended due to a colleague engaging in conduct of a sexual nature, for example touching them inappropriately, making sexual advances or asking them questions about their sex life.

Victimisation occurs where a person suffers detrimental treatment because they have made a discrimination or harassment complaint or brought a discrimination or harassment claim or because they have helped someone else to do so.

Discrimination arising from disability occurs where somebody is treated unfavourably because of something connected to their disability. For example, a disabled employee who has had a lot of time off work for disability-related reasons is dismissed because of their unacceptable level of sickness absence. An employer can defend the claim if it can show that the unfavourable treatment is objectively justified by a real business need and this could not be achieved in a less discriminatory way. An employer will not be liable if it can show that it did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the employee had the disability.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments (for a disabled person) occurs where a practice, policy or rule applied by the employer places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who is not disabled, and the employer fails to take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage.

Discrimination Services for Employees and Other Individuals

If you are being unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace this can be upsetting and a challenge for you to deal with on your own. If you are considering bringing a claim of discrimination, harassment or victimisation, our employment team can help you through this stressful situation. Some of our discrimination services for individuals include:

  • Helping you to make a complaint or raise a grievance including drafting and reviewing documentation.
  • Helping with Discrimination claims (direct and indirect discrimination), Victimisation claims and claims relating to Harassment
  • Advising you on Constructive Dismissals because of discrimination.
  • Helping with evidence e.g. preparing witness statements.
  • Negotiating a settlement with your employer.
  • Representing you during Early Conciliation and in Employment Tribunal proceedings.

For further information or assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our team. We are here to ensure your workplace rights are upheld and you receive the support you need.