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Discrimination in the workplace is very common despite the protection given to employees by way of the Equality Act 2010. The legislation is tailored to ensure that everyone is given an equal opportunity and provides protection not only to employees but also to individuals during the recruitment and selection process of employment. However, many employers either disregard legislation or carry out discrimination unwittingly, neither of which are excused.

Discrimination can have a devastating effect on the victim both financially and emotionally. Our employment solicitors have extensive experience in advising, preparing, negotiating and representing in all types of discrimination claims. Our advice is tailored to suit the situation and the particular outcome that an individual is looking to achieve. Discrimination is a complex area of law which is why it is vital that you seek legal advice.

Discrimination is where an individual or group is treated less favourably than others because of any of the following protected characteristics:

  •  Age
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion or belief

The following are the various types of discrimination:

Direct Discrimination

This is where an employee/prospective employee or group is treated unfairly and less favourably to others because of one of the above characteristics.

Indirect Discrimination

Discrimination can take more subtle tones, hence the term indirect discrimination.  This is where a work condition or practice which may on the face of it appear neutral is applied to all individuals but the effect of this is such that it causes a person or a group to be disadvantaged in comparison to the rest.  One example of this could be where all employees are required to be clean shaven or are refused the right to wear any headdress. This would indirectly discriminate individuals with certain religious beliefs. Another example could be job requirements, which although are imposed on all applicants, have the effect of indirectly discriminating against one group of applicants.


This is unwanted conduct which relates to one of the above characteristics but which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of an individual or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere for the individual. The conduct of the offender does not need to be deliberate, provided it has the above mentioned effect.


This is where an individual is treated less favourably than others either because they have made a discrimination complaint against their employer in the past or are intending on making a complaint.

Equal Pay

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women where they are doing :

  •  Like work – This is work which is similar or broadly similar where any differences are relatively unimportant
  • Work rated as equivalent –  This is where an analytical job evaluation scheme rates the work to be equivalent
  • Work which is of an equal value – This where although the job may be different, the effort, skill and demand of the work is the same to such an extent that it is deemed as of equal value.

Once an employee has established one of the above, they are entitled to Equal Pay unless the employer can show that the difference in pay is due to a material factor which is genuine and relevant and which is not related to the difference in gender.

As a business you need to be aware that, as their employer, you are potentially vicariously liable for the actions of your employees. If, for example, one employee is discriminating against another, and you have not taken all reasonable steps as a business to prevent this happening, you could be found vicariously liable for the actions of your employee. In this scenario the employee may have a legitimate claim in the Employment Tribunal against you. Our employment solicitors can limit the likelihood of this situation arising by actively ensuring as a business you are taking all ‘reasonable steps’, for example by checking that the business has adequate policies and procedures in place dealing with discrimination in the workplace.

Time Limit for Bringing a Claim

The time limit for bringing a claim is fairly strict. In discrimination cases, claims must be lodged with the Employment Tribunal within three months of the date of the last act complained of. The Tribunal can however extend this time limit where it is just and equitable to do so.

There is no time limit for bringing an Equal Pay claim where the employee is still working for you in the same job. However, where the individual has left their employment, they have 6 months from the date of the end of their employment contract to bring a claim in the employment tribunal. If the time limit for bringing a claim in the tribunal has expired, then the claim can still be pursued via the Civil Courts within 6 years.

This is a complicated area of law and it is therefore essential that you act quickly and seek expert legal advice. If you need advice on a specific legal issue,  or information about discrimination law generally, Contact us on 0800 644 1544 for a free consultation.

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