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Recognising Workplace Discrimination: A Guide

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects us from discrimination, but unfortunately, this is not always enough to prevent people from experiencing discrimination in their everyday life. One of the places where an individual may be at risk of discrimination based on a protected characteristic is the workplace. Whether consciously or unconsciously done, sometimes employers make assumptions about a candidate or an employee based on their gender, age, race, religion, pregnancy/parenthood, skin colour or disability. When this occurs, it can be difficult for the person who has been discriminated against to know how to manage the situation, especially if the discrimination is not overtly discussed.
If you are concerned that discrimination is taking place in your workplace, which affects you and your colleagues, read through this guide for more information.
Is there a difference between harassment and discrimination?
Harassment is a type of discrimination, and there are several types of harassment which can take place in the workplace. For example, this may include behaviour that is unwelcome by a colleague, supervisor or client (or anyone in the workplace) which occurs because of an individual’s gender, race, skin colour, ethnicity, age, disability or pregnancy. Harassment which creates a hostile work environment for an employee or group of employees is illegal and often has a negative impact on their mental health and performance at work.
Types of Employment Discrimination
Discrimination in the workplace occurs when someone (candidate or employee) is discriminated against due to a characteristic or factor. Some of the most common types of workplace discrimination are listed below.
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race
  • Skin colour
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability (physical or mental)
  • Parenthood
  • Pregnancy
  • Relationship with another person.
If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer, contact employment law specialists to seek legal advice.
Discrimination is usually associated with a person being adversely affected as a result. However, it’s important to note that positive discrimination is also unlawful. This is when a person is hired or treated more favourably than others because they have a protected characteristic. It can put other candidates/employees at an unfair disadvantage.
It’s particularly important to remember that discrimination is not limited to these aspects of employment and can occur in a range of situations. An employer cannot make assumptions about an employee because of their age, gender, race, religion or any disabilities they may have. This also extends to recruitment and promotion as employers are not allowed to withhold opportunities based on a protected characteristic or even their personal relationship with an individual. Some specific examples of discrimination in the workplace include:
  • Suggesting that certain candidates would be preferred in a job advertisement, either explicitly or by insinuation.
  • Dismissing candidates during recruitment due to a protected characteristic. Note: Blind recruitment practices can help to reduce unconscious biases during the hiring process.
  • Withholding opportunities or benefits to individual employees.
  • Paying different salaries to people with equal qualifications and responsibilities.
  • Providing different levels of annual leave, parental leave, or retirement/pension options.
  • Withholding company facilities for certain employees.
  • Discriminating against individuals during promotions, pay reviews, or redundancies.

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