Different Types of Discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 sets out protected characteristics that should not be discriminated against (for more information regarding these protected characteristics, please review our article on this).
The Equality Act 2010 sets out protected characteristics that should not be discriminated against (for more information regarding these protected characteristics, please review our article on this). These are:
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Marriage and civil partnership
The ways that someone could be discriminated against are also contained in the Equality Act and the four main ways that an employer could discriminate against an employee are as follows:
- Direct discrimination
- Indirect discrimination
Direct discrimination is perhaps the most obvious form of discrimination. This means treating someone less favourably because they have a protected characteristic. This could be for example, not giving a woman a promotion because she is of child bearing years and the employer does not wish for her to go on maternity leave after the promotion is received.
Indirect discrimination occurs when an employer applies a principle or practice to all staff members that does not seem discriminatory but has a larger or worse impact on people with a certain protected characteristic. For example, having a blanket policy that all staff must work full time is likely to have a negative effect on women who are more likely to have caring responsibilities and thus women would be placed at a disadvantage by this policy. Similarly, if an employer does not allow certain roles to work from home when they are able to, this could put people with a disability at a disadvantage as they may find it more difficult to get into the office.
If an employer can prove that the policy or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim then even if the policy or practice does adversely affect a certain protected characteristic it will not be discriminatory.
Harassment occurs when an employee is treated in a way that violates their dignity or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This would include someone making racist slurs against an employee or unwanted advances.
Victimisation occurs when someone is treated unfairly after they have taken action under the Equality Act 2010. This could include after they have made a complaint of discrimination or even if they have supported someone to make a claim for discrimination.
Finally, an employee may have a claim against their employer for discrimination if they have a disability and their employer fails to make reasonable adjustments. This could include allowing flexible working if an employee would struggle to attend the office or providing certain specialist equipment. Employers are only required to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments. For more information regarding reasonable adjustments, please review our article on this.
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