Do you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace?
The Equality Act 2010 is the basis of discrimination law in the UK. The Act states that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on any of the following grounds:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
These are known as protected characteristics.
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Discrimination can be direct (treating an employee differently because they have a protected characteristic) or indirect (implementing a policy for all employees which affects one employee differently because of their protected characteristic). It is also unlawful to victimise an employee because they have complained about discrimination, and to harass an employee.
There is no qualifying period of employment required to bring a claim against an employer for discrimination.
The law around discrimination in the workplace is changing constantly as new cases expand the definition of discriminatory behaviour and the parameters of the protected characteristics.
As an employer, you should have an Equality and Diversity policy in place and should regularly review internal procedures to ensure that they are not discriminatory. Our team of solicitors can assist with drafting and reviewing policies and procedures, as well as helping you to defend any claim brought against you.
If you are an employee and believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace, our Employment team can assess your case and advise as to the best way forward.
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Frequently asked questions
If you're experiencing discrimination or less favourable treatment at work, the first thing you should do is report it to somebody of authority, usually your line manager or HR department. Make sure you tell them about the problem and work will try to work with them to resolve it as quickly and effectively as possible before the problem escalates.
After you've reported your problem to your line manager or HR department, if things haven't improved, make sure that you keep an accurate record of whatever is happening to you. I would suggest keeping a diary, making detailed notes so that you can refer to them later if the problem isn't resolved.
As part of your conversations with your line manager or employer about the problems or discrimination you're experiencing why not consider mediation? It's a good way to get somebody who is third-party and impartial to mediate between the two parties or the two groups concerned to see if we can find common ground and resolve the animosity and ill-feeling to try and overcome the differences and problems that are happening in the workplace.
If all else fails, you've reported matters to your line manager you've tried mediation, you've tried working with the person who is causing the problems then don't despair. Get expert advice and an employment lawyer can help you through the problems, explain to you all your options, and importantly, if it can't be resolved at work, you've always got the option of bringing an employment tribunal claim.
Now, it is important to note there are very strict time limits, which is usually three months from the date of the acts that you're complaining of. So, if an event happened on the 1st of January which was discriminatory, you would have until the end of March to bring a claim. So, if you haven't been able to resolve the dispute and you do have to issue an employment tribunal claim remember to do it within the three-month time limit.
But speak to an expert employment lawyer who can guide you through the process. Discrimination is probably one of the most complicated areas of employment law, so it is usually pays dividends to get expert advice and assistance in drafting that claim to ensure that it is compliant and to improve your prospects of success.
Now court and tribunal proceedings can be expensive so do speak to your lawyer about the different funding options available. One of the most popular at the moment is before the event, legal expenses insurance. This is where you might have an already paid for legal expenses insurance policy. For example, added on to your home insurance. You might not even know about it, but if your home insurance includes legal expenses cover, it means that it will cover your legal expenses up to whatever the indemnity limit, is usually £50,000 or £100,000. Which is normally more than sufficient to cover you all the way through to an employment tribunal hearing to see the matter to throw you to a successful conclusion.
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Dispute Resolution Team
Holly is a Member and Head of Mullis and Peake’s Dispute Resolution Department
Martyn is our Chairman and the firms' Compliance Officer for Legal Practice