Discrimination at work can occur in several ways but it basically means that one or more employees is/are being treated differently or less fairly than others and you are protected from that as an employee by law. There can also be instances of both direct and indirect discrimination.
However, before lodging any type of complaint, you should familiarise yourself with what is actually deemed ‘unlawful discrimination’ as opposed to taking issue with something you might just personally feel is unfair and there are plenty of resources where you can find that out. Here are some of the most common forms of unlawful discrimination.
Sex Discrimination & Sexual Orientation Discrimination
It is unlawful to discriminate against any of your employees because of their gender. In other words, companies must offer both men and women the same rates of pay and conditions if they are doing the same type of job. Furthermore, they must also have equal access to the same opportunities for training and for career advancement or job promotion which can only be evaluated purely on the grounds of their skills and their abilities.
It’s also unlawful to discriminate against employees who may have chosen to change their gender by having, or intending to have a sex change or because of their sexual orientation, i.e. it’s unlawful to discriminate on the grounds that someone is homosexual or lesbian.
Racial Discrimination & Religious Beliefs
It’s also unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of their colour, ethnicity, race or nationality and the same is true about discrimination because of somebody’s religious beliefs.
An employer needs to ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everybody else and this extends to an employer having to ensure that they have made any necessary adjustments to the design or adaptation of the workplace so that disabled people have ease of access.
Up until 2006, age discrimination tended to be overlooked more than the other examples above but that has all changed and regardless of age, employers must give the same rights to both younger and older workers as they would do to the rest of the work force.
Part-Time/Full Time Discrimination
It’s also unlawful to treat part-time workers any less favourably than full-time workers.
As with most laws, there are the odd exemptions and exceptions with regards to how one might view what is lawful and unlawful in perceived discriminatory actions. For example, it would be perfectly legal to stipulate that only women could work in, say, a refuge for women who have been the victims of male violence.
Additionally, if a theatre company needed to fill a male character’s role, then they could advertise for men only. These are just 2 exceptions but there are a number of cases where it could be argued that certain practices do not constitute any form of discrimination.
What You Can Do if You Feel You are Being Discriminated Against
In many cases, it’s often down to misunderstandings that cause people to feel discriminated against so before taking any legal action, it’s important that you try to discuss any such matters internally in the first instance. This might be with your immediate supervisor or could even be directly with your employer. If you belong to a trade union, your union representative will also be able to advise you.
If, however, the matter can’t be resolved internally, you can also seek advice from the likes of your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or go to the Arbitration and Conciliation Service (ACAS) or the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Speaking to a solicitor who specialises in employment law is yet another alternative.
By seeking advice from any of the above, you will be able to find out if you have a valid case of unlawful discrimination and, if it’s considered that you have been unlawfully discriminated against then ultimately you can take the matter through to an Employment Tribunal but it’s important that you seek legal advice first from one or more of the organisations above before taking that step.
What is important is that you do not have to tolerate unlawful discrimination and that laws are in place to protect you from it.