Workplace Discrimination: Your Rights

Dylan Loughlin

Discrimination happens when an employer treats one employee less favourably than others. It could mean a female employee being paid less than a male colleague for doing the same job, or an employee from a minority ethnic community being refused the training opportunities offered to other colleagues.

Types of discrimination (‘protected characteristics’)

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:

· Gender

· Marriage or civil partnership

· Gender reassignment

· Pregnancy & maternity leave

· Sexual orientation

· Disability

· Race

· Colour

· Ethnic background

· Nationality

· Religion or political opinion

· Age

You are legally protected from discrimination by equality legislation.

You are also protected from discrimination if:

· You are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, for example a family member or friend

· You have complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim

How you can be discriminated against?

Discrimination can come in one of the following forms:

Direct discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others

Indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage

Harassment – unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them

Victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they have complained about discrimination or harassment

It can be lawful to have specific rules or arrangements in place if they can be justified.

Discrimination at work

The law protects you against discrimination at work, including:

· Dismissal

· Employment terms and conditions

· Pay and benefits

· Promotion and transfer opportunities

· Training

· Recruitment

· Redundancy

Some forms of discrimination are only allowed if they are needed for the way the organisation works, for example:

1. A Roman Catholic school restricting an application for admission of pupils to Catholics only.

2. Employing only women in a health centre for Muslim women.


If you are disabled, you have the same rights as other workers. Employers should also make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help disabled employees and job applicants with:

· Application forms, for example providing forms in Braille or audio formats

· Aptitude tests, for example giving extra time to complete the tests.

· Dismissal or redundancy

· Discipline and grievances

· Interview arrangements, such as providing wheelchair access, communicator support.

· Making sure the workplace has the right facilities and equipment for disabled workers or someone offered a job.

· Promotion, transfer and training opportunities

· Terms of employment, including pay

· Work-related benefits like access to recreation or refreshment facilities.

What can you do?

If you have been a victim of discrimination at work, seek legal advice from a member of our team at Copacetic Business Solutions. We deal with all matters pertaining to Employment Law and HR.

Other types of unfair treatment

You are also protected from being treated unfairly because of:

· Trade union membership or non-membership

· Being a fixed term or part-time worker

We hope this was a helpful introduction for you, if you have any further questions, or you think you may be being discriminated against, please reach out to us for advice.

Carrie Wilson – People Consultant

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