When Can I Claim for Discrimination at Work?

Unlike an unfair dismissal claim, you don’t have to have been an employee for two years to make a discrimination at work claim. This is because you have discrimination rights from day one on the job. Equality legislation protects a wide category of individuals, from full-time employees to casual workers.

If you believe you’ve suffered from discrimination at work get in touch with our Employment Solicitors for free initial legal advice.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Discrimination at Work and Protected Characteristics

Most people want to bring a discrimination claim against their employer because they feel they have been treated differently. But does this actually amount to discrimination?

The answer is not in every case. To make a successful discrimination at work claim you must be able to show that the unequal or less favourite treatment was because of a “protected characteristic”. Under the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are defined as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex and sexual orientation

If your employer treats you differently because you’re overweight or due to your physical appearance, this may seem unfair. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you will have a discrimination claim against your employer.

Types of Discrimination at Work

There are various forms of discrimination covered under the Equality Act. The most obvious form of discrimination is direct discrimination. This could occur if you’ve not been offered a job because of your race or sexual orientation.

In essence, you must be able to prove that you have been treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic compared to another employee in the same material circumstances who does not have a protected characteristic.

If direct discrimination against your employer is proven, then your employer cannot defend this on the basis that its actions were justified. This is except in case of direct age discrimination, where it is open for the employer to justify its approach.

Indirect discrimination applies where the employer applies the same set of rules to everyone, but this has an adverse effect on certain individuals who have a protected characteristic. An example can include a female employee who feels they have been placed at a disadvantage because their employer has imposed a workplace ban on wearing skirts.

Other types of discrimination outlined under the Equality Act include harassment and victimisation. Harassment at work claims could arise where your employer has engaged in unwanted conduct which has the effect of violating your dignity. This does not necessarily have to involve physical contact, and could perhaps involve making inappropriate jokes or showing someone inappropriate pictures.

A victimisation at work claim would generally arise if your employer subjects you to detriment because you’ve engaged in a protected act. A protected act in this sense could include making an allegation about discrimination or issuing a discrimination claim. If your employer dismissed you because you have issued a discrimination claim, then you could have a potential victimisation claim.

What Should I Do if I Have been Discriminated Against?

For many people, making a discrimination claim against their employer is seen as a last resort. However, there are other options you may wish to explore before starting legal proceedings. For instance, you may wish to explore raising the issue with your employer on an informal basis at first.

If this does not work, then you should consider raising a formal grievance. Your employer should then deal with this in line with its internal grievance policy. As an alternative to making a claim, you may wish to explore entering into a Settlement Agreement with your employer.


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