Discrimination can arise at all stages of the working relationship: before, during and after. The law covers employees, people contracting personally to do work or to provide a service, such as workers and LLP members. It is unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of nine areas described as protected characteristics.
What is discrimination?
Essentially, treating somebody or a group of people less favourably or unfavourably because of a particular characteristic, known as a “protected characteristic”. Discrimination can be inadvertent; motive or intention are irrelevant. There are different types of discrimination, it can be direct or indirect and there are more special rules applying to people who are disabled. People also have free standing rights not to be harassed or victimised.
What are the protected characteristics?
There are nine protected characteristics
- Age: this covers one person or people in the same age group (e.g. “the over fifties”).
- Disability: this is an impairment which can be either physical or mental
- Gender reassignment: this includes people before, during and after undergoing a process and there is no requirement to be undergoing medical supervision
- Marriage and Civil Partnership:
- Pregnancy and maternity: this includes both pregnancy and an illness suffered as a result
- Race: this includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins
- Religion or belief: this means any religion and includes a lack of religion. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and, again, a lack of either or both
- Sex: gender
- Sexual orientation: orientation towards the same, the opposite or either sex
How and where is a claim brought?
Before bringing a claim, the individual must contact ACAS and go through its early conciliation procedure. These days it is possible to start a claim on line.
Remedies? How much can it cost?
Unlike unfair dismissal, there is no length of service requirement or upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded, so it could end up being very costly.
How can we help?
Roberta advises how you can seek to protect yourself, on potentially unlawful discrimination issues at all stages of the relationship, from recruitment, when problems arise and when claims are alleged or brought and need defending. Roberta also drafts and reviews equal opportunities policies and can help with training.
What should I do?
If you have a problem or think that you may have one, contact Roberta. Acting pre-emptively or promptly is very often the key to you saving the expense of a claim and the reputational damage of losing at an employment tribunal.