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Discrimination At Work: What Employees Can Do

Discrimination at work is an unsettling issue that many employees can face at any point in their lives, which is why it’s crucial to know how to legally tackle it once it transpires.

If you need a lawyer for employment discrimination who can provide you with valuable legal information and support, get in contact with our team by calling 0333 305 9375.


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    What is Discrimination at Work?

    Workplace discrimination is the unfair treatment an employee or job applicant receives from managers and employers. This can be by reason of a specific attribute or set of attributes which is at odds with the treatment given to the rest of the workforce.

    This type of discrimination is known as “negative discrimination”. It must be distinguished from “positive discrimination” in that the purpose is not to safeguard a specific group of people but to exclude them.

    Several actions and conditions could result from discrimination, including:

    • Dismissal
    • Unequal pay
    • Unfair terms and conditions
    • Denial of promotion, transfer opportunities, training, or recruitment.
    • Redundancy

    Protected Characteristics

    To consider any episode of unfair treatment as discriminatory, it must be based on a peculiar characteristic that the UK law protects. These “protected characteristics” are outlined in the Equality Act 2010, including:

    • Age
    • Race or national origin
    • Religion or belief
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender reassignment
    • Disability
    • Maternity/pregnancy
    • Marriage/civil partnership

    Direct vs Indirect Discrimination at Work

    Direct discrimination is illustrated by the classic example of an employer treating a person or group poorly because of a protected characteristic that protects employees or owing to an intimate link they may have with someone who has that protected characteristic.

    Direct discrimination can also ensue from a perceived characteristic you may not have (discrimination by perception).

    Indirect discrimination, on the other hand, doesn’t target a specific individual or group outright. Instead, it relates to a measure or policy that, while applied in the same manner for everyone, creates particular disadvantages for a category of people. Employers who enforce these policies must show that there is a reasonable justification for them.

    An example of indirect discrimination could be a job advert that only accepts applicants with several years of experience. In this instance, the hirer could be discriminating indirectly on account of age.

    We provide support and advice concerning discrimination at work. Get in touch with us today to discuss.

    What Can I Do Against Employment Discrimination?


    If you were unfairly discriminated against, you could:

    • File a complaint directly to the employer.
    • Call for a mediation process or alternative dispute resolution procedure.
    • Submit a claim in a tribunal or court.

    Let’s briefly unpack these solutions one by one.

    Present a Complaint

    One of the best ways to sort out an uncomfortable occurrence at work is by trying to settle the matter directly with your manager. At first, you may attempt to reason with them informally and amicably.

    These workplace issues stem from misunderstandings in many circumstances and can be resolved through a timely meeting or conversation.

    You can also raise your concern formally by submitting a grievance letter (physical or email).

    Consult your employment contract or the staff handbook to see if the workplace has a specific grievance procedure, or ask your manager or HR representative about it. Your employer should either lay out an internal procedure or abide by the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

    Mediation and Arbitration

    Both mediation and arbitration involve a third party.

    In mediation, this impartial third party participates in the discussions and is tasked with proposing feasible ways to solve the conflict by which both parties can benefit.

    An arbitration process is resolved unilaterally by a person alien to the controversy whom both you and your employer agreed upon and whose decision is legally binding.

    Employment Tribunal Claim

    As a last resort, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal, though you must do so within three months from the date of the last discriminatory action against you.

    You don’t need to quit or be dismissed in order to make a discrimination claim, and you can ask for an award due to moral injury as well as for any loss of earnings and benefits that you suffered in light of the discriminatory action.

    You can additionally claim constructive dismissal – if you found yourself forced to quit – by alleging a serious breach of contract or unfair dismissal if you were directly dismissed by your employer.

    You won’t need to fulfil the 2-year employment requirement that applies in ordinary scenarios, as discrimination is an “automatically unfair” reason that UK employment law doesn’t tolerate.

    Get in touch with our team today to learn more about our professional services and to find out how we can help.

    We Can Help You

    Workplace discrimination can be extremely distressful and detrimental to your self-esteem and mental ability to undertake work. However, in the face of these adversities, you can still take legal action to revert any wrongdoing against you and obtain just compensation.

    We at IAS Law take pride in advising and defending employees and job applicants against arbitrary decisions from employers, especially when they concern a protected characteristic.

    We have ample experience handling discrimination cases and are constantly updated with the latest regulations to help secure a legal victory for our clients.

    If you were treated unfairly by your employer, dial 0333 305 9375 and talk to one of our employment experts.

    IAS office

    Our expert employment support and advice sessions are available in person at our offices, or via the phone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    It depends on whether the reason for the bullying is a “protected characteristic”. If it is, you may be facing harassment and could file a harassment claim (intimately related to discrimination). If you are being bullied for any other reason, you can only file a constructive dismissal claim for breach of mutual trust, though you’d have to quit your job first.

    It may be lawful (not discriminatory) if the nature of the job requires you to have acute hearing abilities (e.g., interpreter, transcriber, or call centre operator, among others). If this is not the case, the hirer must make reasonable adjustments to help disabled individuals in their application (in this instance, by handing out a transcription of the clip).

    Considering that the reason for the dismissal was “automatically unfair” as it involved discrimination due to maternity/pregnancy, you can undoubtedly claim unfair dismissal even if this happened on your first day at work. You can even ask for reinstatement in a different position.

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