On what grounds is an individual protected from discrimination in the workplace?

The following grounds are protected as areas of discrimination:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex/gender
  • sexual orientation

What is meant by the term ‘direct’ discrimination?

Direct discrimination is generally where the individual is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have or are thought to have or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic. Generally direct discrimination is unlawful, however it can be justified in the following circumstances: where the protected characteristic is age, where a disabled person is treated more favourably than a non-disabled person, where the Act provides an express exception which permits directly discriminatory treatment.

What is ‘indirect’ discrimination?

This occurs when an employer applies a provision, criterion or practice (“PCP”) that is disadvantageous to a disproportionate amount of people due to their protected characteristic. It may be possible to justify indirect discrimination in certain circumstances if the PCP helps the employer meet a legitimate aim.

What constitutes harassment?

In essence, harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of another and/or creating a degrading, hostile, intimidating, humiliating and offensive environment. This conduct would be by reason of the protected characteristic.

My employer is bullying me because I am a man. He is victimising me in that I am the only one being treated this way. Can I claim for victimisation?

Victimisation has a special meaning in employment law. It means that a person is treated badly because they have exercised or intend to exercise their rights for example, complained about unlawful discrimination, or have assisted another who is making such a complaint.

Can the Respondent provide any defences to discriminatory treatment?

This depends on the type of claim being pursued. An employer can raise defences in certain types of discrimination claims such as the defence that the treatment was justified and meets a legitimate aim.

What compensation is available if I am successful?

This will depend on the facts of each individual case. For discrimination claims compensation is unlimited. We can advise you on your rights and the likely value of your claim, together with the likelihood of your claim succeeding. 

It is also possible to receive a declaration from the Tribunal that you were discriminated against, or a recommendation as to what action the employer is to take in the future to avoid discriminatory behaviour.

What counts as a disability according to the law?

You have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Possible examples of a disability include epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, 'ME', asthma, depression, HIV, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart conditions, hearing or sight impairments, a significant mobility difficulty, mental health conditions or learning difficulties.

What next?

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