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Discrimination law and your employee rights

Every employee deserves to be treated fairly but workplace discrimination unfortunately still affects many of us even in the year 2022. Here in the UK, there are many laws and legislation to protect employees from workplace discrimination but this does not mean that discrimination has been eliminated completely. In fact, 38% of workers in the UK say they have felt discriminated against in their workplace or when applying for a job, compared to 30% in Europe. If you want to know more about your employee rights against discrimination and what to do if you feel unfairly treated keep reading.

What is discrimination at work?

In simple terms, it is against the law to discriminate against someone due to their ‘protected characteristics’. These include:

–          Age

–          Sex

–          Religion or belief

–          Disability

–          Sexual orientation

–          Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin

–          Gender reassignment

–          Being married or in a civil partnership

–          Being pregnant or on maternity leave

Discrimination at work covers many things there are 4 main categories which are the most common:

–          Direct discrimination (when someone is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic, such as sex or race)

–          Indirect discrimination (when an employer treats an individual or group of employees the same as everyone else, but this ends up negatively affecting them)

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

–          Victimisation (when someone is treated unfairly because they have complained about discrimination or harassment)

Discrimination law protects you against these issues and covers places of work, study, public services and many other places too. Discrimination can occur when an employer treats an employee unfavourably. For example, this could be a female employee not receiving the same wage as a male colleague in the same role or an employee from an ethnic minority not receiving equal opportunities for further training. A common form of workplace discrimination that we also see is at the application or interview stage. If a prospective employer rejects you based on your appearance for example, you would be well within your rights to raise a complaint.

What are your rights?

As an employee, it is very important to know what your rights against discrimination are. Discrimination at work can lead to you being treated unfairly, so the laws surrounding it can protect you from things like dismissal, redundancy and not being given equal opportunities. However, remember that while many of us may be treated unfairly at work, this is not necessarily due to discrimination. Discrimination must fall under being unfairly treated due to one of the characteristics already mentioned so bear this in mind when considering your employee rights. No matter the size of the company you work for or the type of contract you are on (permanent, temporary etc), you are entitled to these employee rights and your employer cannot avoid discrimination law.

What can you do if you feel discriminated against?

So the question still remains, what can you do if you feel discriminated against at work? There are several courses of action you can take if you find yourself in this position and of course it varies depending on how serious the case is. In the first instance you should always go to your workplace directly with the problem, it’s a good idea to approach the HR department or a similar individual who is not immediately connected to what has happened. This may mean that the incident can be resolved internally and no further action needs to be taken. Following this, you may wish to raise a formal grievance in your workplace which will give the employer the chance to resolve the situation using their grievance procedure. However, if the case of discrimination is more serious and nothing has been done to rectify it, you are well within your rights to pursue a claim. This can be done through avenues such as a trade union representative or Citizens Advice and may lead to a formal employment tribunal to settle the matter. You may also be entitled to legal aid to help with associated costs. It is a good idea to engage the services of an employment law solicitor who will be an expert in this field and therefore able to guide you through your next steps.

 

As mentioned, discrimination in the workplace sadly occurs more than we and most employers would like to admit. Keep informed about your rights and always seek the advice of your HR department or an external source if you are worried you have been discriminated against. For more advice on discrimination in the workplace and your rights, get in touch with the team.