There are various types of discrimination and unlawful conduct that can take place in the workplace, as typically governed by the Equality Act 2010. The Employment team at B P Collins are experienced in assisting both employees and employers with queries relating to the law on discrimination.

The protection under the Equality Act applies to those with the protected characteristics of: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

Below are the different types of discrimination that can arise in the workplace:

  • Direct discrimination which occurs where there is less favourable treatment because of:
    • a protected characteristic; or
    • a connection to a protected characteristic called discrimination by association ; or
    • a person is thought to have a protected characteristic when they do not called discrimination by perception.

Example: An example of direct discrimination would be an employer rejecting an application from a female for a role in preference of a male candidate because of a perception that men have better technical skills.

Sometimes direct discrimination is allowed if there is ‘objective justification’. This means the employer is able to prove there’s a good business reason. It only applies in some situations related to age and disability.

  • Indirect discrimination which occurs wherea provision, criterion or practice that applies to everyone has the effect of disadvantaging a group with a particular protected characteristic more than others and is not justified.

Example: A rule that no one can work flexibly will likely indirectly discriminate against women, on grounds that a larger proportion of women have childcare responsibilities. Such a requirement would be discriminatory unless it can be justified.

  • Harassment-Under the Equality Act 2010 there are 3 types of harassment:
    • harassment related to certain ‘protected characteristics’;
    • sexual harassment- this type of harassment does not need to be related to a protected characteristic.; and
    • less favourable treatment as a result of harassment because an individual has either submitted to or rejected previous sexual harassment, or previous harassment related to sex or gender reassignment..

The law on harassment related to certain protected characteristics applies when someone:

  • has a relevant protected characteristic;
  • is harassed because they are thought to have a certain protected characteristic when they do not;
  • is harassed because they have a connection with someone with a certain protected characteristic; or
  • witnesses harassment, if what they’ve seen has violated their dignity or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment for them.

To be harassment, (in these circumstances) the unwanted behaviour must have either:

  • violated the person’s dignity; or
  • created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.

Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 there is a type of harassment which is separate to the 3 types of harassment under the Equality Act 2010. This is behaviour that causes alarm or distress but is not necessarily related to a protected characteristic. It includes stalking. It can be a criminal act.

  • Victimisation occurs where an individual subjects a worker to a detriment because either they had done a protected act, or it was believed that they had done, or may intend to carry out a protected act.

Protected acts include bringing discrimination claims, complaining about harassment, or becoming involved in another employee’s discrimination complaint.

Example: Denying a promotion to an employee who had complained about having suffered harassment.

  • Disability discrimination affords employees additional protection where the discrimination is ‘arising from’ a disability. Disability discrimination also includes direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Example of ‘arising from’ disability discrimination: If an employee’s visual impairment means that they cannot work as quickly as colleagues, and their employer dismisses them because of low output, this dismissal will be discrimination arising from disability unless it is objectively justified.

Reasonable adjustments: Employers also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for those who are disabled. What is considered to be reasonable will depend on the size of the employer, the amount of resources available, and how practicable the changes are.

Discrimination can occur at any stage of the employment relationship, for example, during a recruitment process, selection for training or promotion, applying disciplinary procedures, dismissal and redundancy. A comprehensive understanding of the various forms of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 is crucial for employers and employees alike. It not only assists in fostering a fair workplace but also ensures compliance with the Equality Act 2010. If you require legal assistance or advice on discrimination matters, do not hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team of employment solicitors.

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