Employment Law Discrimination

Discrimination and Equality falls under the Equality Act 2010. This is an increasingly important and far-reaching area of law which covers a wide spectrum of discrimination cases. Specifically, the law covers nine protected sectors: Age, Sex (Gender) Race, Religion, Disability, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Sexual Orientation and Gender Reassignment. A good initial reference point on the broader aspects of this complex area of law can be found on the ACAS website; however, a conversation with a firm of lawyers specialising in Employment Law like Davies and Partners who have offices in the Midlands, London and the South West can provide a better way forward.

It is important for both Employers and Employees to understand that discrimination comes in many hues and can apply to all types of businesses however large and small and with any employee, whatever their role, from the boss to the most humble position in an organisation. It should also be remembered that volunteers do not enjoy any of these protections.

Tougher legislation in recent years has meant that discrimination in the workplace has become a minefield for employers. Also increased awareness by employees of their legitimate rights means that if they feel they have been discriminated against they now have more opportunities to pursue their claims through the Tribunal. Employers have to come to terms with the fact we live in a litigious world and it makes good business sense to take professional advice from a specialist firm of lawyers to ensure that they are fully protected and are adhering to the law. Not doing so can be costly and can cause irreparable reputational damage.

Problems can even start at the recruitment stage when a potential employee can make a claim for discrimination if he or she feels that they have not been selected for a position because some form of discrimination has occurred either prior to or at interview. In addition, vicarious liability can fall upon an employer when, for example, an employee discriminates against another employee in the workplace. This essentially means that if an employee discriminates whilst doing his or her job, the employer may have a liability for this even if not aware of it. It is essential that every employer has a published Equal Opportunities Policy in place and proper training is given. Such actions will go a long way to protecting an employer.

Over and above direct discrimination some other points to watch out for are: Associative Discrimination – this can arise where an individual does not come under the umbrella of a ‘protected sector’ but is associated with someone who is. An example might be a carer being treated unfairly while looking after a person with a disability.

Perception Discrimination can be equally subtle and arises when a ‘non-protected’ individual is subject to adverse treatment because an employee believes he or she has a particular characteristic, for example, this could be making homophobic comments to a heterosexual employee who is believed to be gay.

In the same way Employees need to be aware of discrimination in all its forms as the law protects them in a wide variety of ways from age, religious belief, race, sexual orientation and disability to name but a few. The aforementioned areas are more easily identified but employees should also be aware that employers may discriminate against them in other not so obvious ways. The enforcement of workplace policies that make it difficult for an employee to comply if they have a protected characteristic are good examples of this. This might apply if all employees are suddenly asked to work night shifts as female employees traditionally have caring responsibilities they may be less able to comply.

Employees should also remember that successful discrimination claims can result in substantial damages as awards are uncapped unlike in most unfair dismissal scenarios. Claims against the NHS, the police and other public sector employers are not uncommon.

Discrimination claims at the Employment Tribunal are notoriously complex. Normally a lawyer represents the employee although some individuals opt to represent themselves, a course of action that employment law specialists, Davies and Partners, says needs careful thought. Davies and Partners can provide assistance either through representation at Employment Tribunal or by giving advice and assistance.

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