Discrimination and the Equality Act

Avoiding discrimination in the workplace matters. Discrimination is a key feature in employment law and one that both employers and employees need to be aware of. Otherwise they fall foul of the comprehensive rules for workplaces set out in the Equality Act 2010. 

Our employment team have extensive experience in the area of discrimination law and can advise you on your rights and obligations under the Act. This area of employment law is constantly developing.

The Nine Protected Characteristics

Under the Equality Act 2010 there are nine protected characteristics, and it is an offence under the Act to discriminate a person because they have one or more of them. The nine characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

The Equality Act 2010 also makes it an offence to discriminate against another person by way of perception (an employer perceives an individual has one of the protected characteristics) and association (for example, discriminating against an employee who is married to someone of a particular religious faith).

The discrimination may be direct (e.g. treating somebody differently because of their age etc) or indirect (setting up barriers that primarily select for the prohibited characteristic). 

With regard to disability, there may issue surrounding whether the employer has taken steps to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace with respect to an employee's disability.

Employer’s Responsibility

The responsibility for ensuring employees are protected from discrimination falls squarely on the employer’s shoulders. There are justifications for a practice which may otherwise be discriminatory, and we can advise you as to those. For example, there is an age exception for a genuine occupational requirement or the policy or conduct is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Therefore, it is vital that as an employer, you choose an advisor who can look at your contracts and policy documentation and make sure they are in line with the current legislation. At Judge & Priestley, we will peruse your employment documentation and evaluate whether it is compliant with the Act.  

Making a Complaint 

If you feel that you have been discriminated at work, it is always best to try and resolve the issue with your employer one on one, before involving advisors. However, if this does not produce a satisfactory result, then we can assist you in making a formal complaint or raising a grievance and negotiating a solution. If you have been dismissed, then we can assist you in bringing forward a case of unfair dismissal. All our advice is given in the strictest confidence.

To find out more about discrimination and rights contained in the Equality Act 2010, please call Paul Stevens on 020 8290 7422.