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Discrimination At Work


As an employer, it’s really important to understand how the employment law concerning discrimination affect your business. You cannot discriminate against your employees or other people connected to your business, such as interviewees.

Making sure that your policies, procedures and your management team are up to date can help you protect your business from any claims for discrimination.

If you need help, call us now on 0117 926 4121 or make a Free Online Enquiry.

Types of Discrimination

If you discriminate against certain things, called protected characteristics, this is immediately against the law. These protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Becoming or being transsexual
  • Being in a civil partnership
  • Being married
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Having a disability
  • Race including colour, nationality, ethnicity or origin
  • Belief, religion or lack of one
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Discrimination law is largely found in the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination can occur outside of work too, but this page only relates to discrimination at work.

Discrimination in Recruitment

It’s possible to break discrimination laws during the recruitment process. This includes job advertisements, the questions you ask at interview and the decisions you make about who to recruit.

For example, you can’t ask someone if they are married or plan to have children. You can’t ask for their birth date unless they have to be a certain age to do the job.

You cannot ask about spent criminal convictions or membership of a trade union.

There are times where you can legally discriminate, for example where you only employ women at a women-only shelter or if you only employ Christians at a Christian organisation.

You can also choose to employ one candidate with protected characteristics over another, but only if:

  • They are both suitable for the job
  • People with that characteristic are underrepresented in that profession or industry
  • People with that characteristic are disadvantaged as a result of being connected to that particular characteristic

To do this, you must be trying to address these issues for that characteristic.

Discrimination At Work

As an employer, you can’t discriminate against your employees. This includes:

  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing the same work
  • Not giving them a promotion because of a protected characteristic
  • Selecting someone for redundancy because of a protected characteristic
  • Not making reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee
  • Introducing measures that exclude certain workers – this could be benefits for married workers that exclude people in civil partnerships
  • Dismissing someone who has alleged discrimination
  • Unjustly refusing a flexible working request by a parent
  • Sacking someone because they are a trade union member

All of these discrimination rules apply to self-employed people who are contracted to you. You cannot just offer development and promotions to people because they have been with you a certain amount of time – this must be open to everyone and if you want to discuss retirement, this must be done as a general conversation with all workers, not just your older employees.

You can break the law even if you do not intend to discriminate.

What If Your Employee Alleges Discrimination?

First and foremost, you should take these allegations seriously. You should have a discrimination policy which should lay out exactly what action you will take in these circumstances.

Make sure you follow the policy and take advice from a specialist employment law solicitor as early as possible. This will help you manage the situation and reduce the impact on your business.

If you have no policies in place, it’s really important to get specialist advice as soon as possible.

How Meade King can Help Your Business

Alex Lyttle heads the Employment law team and has many years experience helping businesses with their employment law issues. We’ll offer you pragmatic advice about what action you should take so you can minimise the financial and reputational damage to your business.

We understand how important it is to be clear about how much it will cost you to take legal advice. We discuss this with you in detail before you instruct us and we’ll always be available to answer any questions you might have.

Taking early advice from a solicitor can help you to minimise the impact of a discrimination claim against your business so call us now.

Contact Us Today

If your business is facing a discrimination claim, don’t just ignore it and hope it’ll go away. Call us today for a free, initial discussion about your situation on 0117 926 4121 or make a Free Online Enquiry.