It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against their employees or prospective employees on the basis of any of the following grounds (known as protected characteristics):
- Gender Reassignment
- Marriage & Civil Partnership
- Pregnancy & Maternity
- Religion or Belief
- Sexual orientation
There are various types of discrimination as explained below:
This occurs where you are treated less favourably because you have one of the protected characteristics listed above. For example, if you are dismissed because of your race.
This occurs when your employer applies some sort of rule or policy (a “provision, criterion or practice”) to a group of employees that puts you at a disadvantage when compared to your colleagues because of one of the protected characteristics above. For example, For example, the requirement to have ten years’ experience is potentially indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of age since young people are less likely to be able to meet this requirement.
Harassment is unwanted conduct linked to a protected characteristic that violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. An example of this could be colleagues making comments about your sexual orientation that you find to be humiliating.
Even if the comments were not intended to upset you, if that is the effect of the comments then this will still amount to harassment.
Victimisation arises when an employer subjects a worker to detriment because they have done a ‘protected act’. The term protected act includes the following: making an allegation of discrimination, bringing a discrimination claim or giving evidence or information during discrimination proceedings. Examples of detrimental treatment include: dismissal, demotion or a reduction in hours or pay.
An example of victimisation is that you make a complaint that a colleague has discriminated against you on the grounds of your sex and in response your employer dismisses you.
If you have a physical or mental impairment that has lasted more than 12 months or is likely to last more than 12 months which has a substantial impact on your ability to carry out normal day to activities then you will likely meet the definition of a disabled person for the purposes of the Equality Act. If so, then as well as the claims referred to above there are two other possible claims that you may be able to bring:
Discrimination Arising from a Disability
Discrimination arising from disability occurs when an employer treats you unfavourably because of something connected with your disability. An example of this type of discrimination is if you are disciplined or dismissed because of absence that is a result of your disability.
Failure to Make Reasonable Adjustments
If there is a rule or policy (a “provision, criterion or practice”) or a physical feature of your employer’s workplace or the lack of an auxiliary aid that puts you at a disadvantage because of your disability then your employer is under a duty to take reasonable steps to remove that disadvantage.
This may take the form of reducing targets for someone who has dyslexia to allow them additional time to consider documents or providing text-reading computer software for an employee with a visual impairment.
What Should I do if I think I have been discriminated?
The Employment Tribunal will expect you to have raised a grievance to your employer about the discrimination that you have been subjected to. There are strict time limits in order to pursue a claim for discrimination and you must have contacted ACAS and started the Early Conciliation process within 3 months les one day of the act of discrimination you are complaining of, or where the discrimination has taken place over a period of time, within 3 months less one day of the last act of discrimination. Submitting a grievance will not usually extend these deadlines. It is important therefore that you seek advice at an early stage if you believe that you have been discriminated against.
What remedies can I get from a discrimination claim?
If you are successful with a claim for discrimination then the outcome could be one or more of the following:
1. Compensation. This is in the form of loss of earnings and/or Injury to Feelings which is broken down into bands of compensation depending on the seriousness of the discrimination you have been subjected to. The bands are
o Lower band £600-£6,000;
o Middle band £6,000-£18,000; and
o Upper band £18,000-£30,000
Most cases will fall into the lower band.
2. A Recommendation. This might be that your employer change a physical feature of their workplace or that managers undertake some form of training.
3. A Declaration that you have been discriminated against.
The Tribunal can award financial compensation under the following headings :
(1) Injury to feelings £600 - £6,000, £6,000 - £18,000, £18,000 - £30,000;
(2) Compensation for loss of earnings ; and
(3) Exemplary or aggravated damages.
The Tribunal can recommend that a particular course of action is followed by the employer going forward.
If you feel that you are being discriminated against at work because you possess one of the protected characteristics set out above, and you would like advice on whether you may have a claim, please contact us. Alternatively you may have already begun a claim against your employer but feel that you need assistance. If so, please contact us and we will be happy to help.