Understanding The Different Types Of Discrimination In The Workplace

It is so important for all employees to know that if they’re treated unfairly at work because of who they are, so to speak, then this behaviour may be classed as discrimination in the eyes of the law. The Equality Act 2010 (EA) is a key piece of legislation that protects people from various forms of discrimination in every section of employment, from recruitment all the way through to dismissal, so discrimination isn’t ever something that you simply have to put up with.  

You can be discriminated against at work for a number of reasons and The EA covers ‘protected characteristics’ such as your gender, age, sexual orientation, race, disability and religion, to name a few. There are also many different types of discrimination that employees should be aware of too and knowing about these will help you to identify whether you’re able to make a claim against your employer for discrimination. Below we have looked into what these types of discrimination are in more detail. 

Direct discrimination

This is usually the most obvious type of discrimination in the workplace and direct discrimination is when you’re treated differently or less favourably because of one of the protected characteristics in The EA. You can experience direct discrimination because of who you are, who someone thinks you are or even because of someone you’re with. 

Common examples of direct discrimination include; 

  • Not being given a job due to a protected characteristic 
  • Being denied a promotion due to a protected characteristic 
  • Not being entitled to company benefits due to a protected characteristic 
  • Being unfairly dismissed from your role due to a protected characteristic 
  • Not being paid an equal wage due to a protected characteristic 

Often, direct discrimination is the easiest type of discrimination to prove should you wish to take a case to the Employment Tribunal against your employer. 

Indirect discrimination

Whilst this type of discrimination is equally as common as direct discrimination, it can be harder to identify. Indirect discrimination is where there is a general rule or policy at a workplace which applies to all employees, however, it places some people at a disadvantage or has a worse effect on some people when compared to others.  

Some examples of indirect discrimination include;

  • Having a clause in all employment contracts requiring employees to travel for work at short notice – this could put parents at a disadvantage 
  • Requesting all employers to work at the weekends – this could put those with religious beliefs at a disadvantage 
  • Only advertising a role to people with a certain number of years of experience – this could put younger people at a disadvantage

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to win a case for indirect discrimination as if an employer can prove they have a good reason for the rule or policy, then it might not be classed as discrimination. However, it is still possible to make an indirect discrimination claim. 

Harassment and victimisation

The EA also includes harassment and victimisation under discrimination and it provides protection to anyone who is experiencing behaviour that they find offensive or that makes them feel intimidated or humiliated because of a protected characteristic. It also protects anyone who is treated badly because they are making a claim or complaint of discrimination, or they’re helping a colleague who is being discriminated against. 

Again, harassment and victimisation can be slightly more difficult to determine because those responsible aren’t always aware that they’re causing harm. In order to make a successful claim, you will also have to prove that the behaviour was unwanted, that the behaviour made you feel a certain way and that it was reasonable for you to feel this way. 

Nevertheless, you don’t have to let harassment and victimisation go unnoticed and you should speak with a manager, HR or trade union representative to try and mediate the problem. You can also consult a legal professional if you’d like to. 

Getting employment law advice 

Hopefully, the information above will be beneficial if you’re looking to find out more about discrimination in the workplace. Should you ever feel as though you’re being discriminated against in any way, it is important to reach out to an experienced professional for some advice. An employment law solicitor will be able to provide you with the assistance that you need should you wish to make a claim against your employer too. 

If you’re searching for a local employment law solicitor, visit the Location Lawyer website today. We can connect you to a community of specialists near you who are used to dealing with complex employment issues. No matter whether you’re looking for an employment law solicitor in Southampton or an employment law solicitor in Exeter a simple search on our website will help you to find suitable and reliable law firms local to you that you can reach out to.