The Equality Act 2010 contains provisions concerning harassment, discrimination and victimisation in employment. Within this, there are many different forms of discrimination as the Equality Act has a list of certain protected characteristics which cannot legally be discriminated against.
The following are the protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
There are different kinds of discrimination and unlawful conduct and they are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, victimising, and instructing, causing, inducing and helping discrimination.
Direct discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee less favourably as a consequence of a protected characteristic.
Indirect discrimination concerns acts and policies which are not intended to treat individuals less favourably but, in practice, they do.
The general definition given for harassment relating to a protected characteristic describes unwanted conduct between individuals due to that characteristic which then leads the harassed party’s dignity to be violated or creates a hostile and intimidating environment.
In most cases, victimisation is alleged to have been committed by an employer who is already subject to a discrimination case, but this is not always the case.
Discrimination can occur at any stage of the employment relationship, including in the recruitment process.
The law protects employees, prospective employees and contract workers from discrimination. In addition, employees and potential employees are protected regardless of how long they have been employed in that role and regardless of the hours that they work. Most forms of discrimination can be seen in direct and indirect forms as well as through harassment and victimisation.
If an employee is successful with a discrimination claim, generally, an Employment Tribunal will make an award of compensation which would include a sum for injury to feelings. The Tribunal may also may a declaration parties’ rights and/or make a recommendation.
In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment, as set out above, the requirement for an employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ is unique to employees with a disability. Where an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee’s disability and prevent them from being disadvantaged in the workplace, there may be cause for a claim for Disability Discrimination.
We can advise you in relation to your obligations as an employer, assist you in preparing policies in relation to protection from discrimination and provide you with specific, tailored advice in respect of any particular discrimination issues which may arise.