Fear of Workplace Discrimination


Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, and can unjustifiably occur for many reasons. For some people, the fear of discrimination is so great that many, in effect, have to 'live a lie' whilst at work.

Diversity in the workplace should be encouraged

Workplace Stigma

The Priory Group carried out research into mental health in the workplace. They found that 71% of the people they spoke to would worry about telling their employer if they had a mental health condition, for fear of a being treated unfavourably. Many would call in sick, citing food poisoning or other conditions rather than admit they were experiencing mental health issues.

One person claimed, "I suffer anxiety and sometimes cannot even manage to leave the house. I claimed I had food poisoning to give me 48 hours to stabilise, because I was worried I'd be sacked if I told the truth, or that it wouldn't remain confidential."

Fear of Being Targeted

So is this issue the same for those who fear discrimination on other grounds? Many are likely to feel it's difficult to talk about particular issues, such as gender, sexuality, religion, or perhaps a physical disability.

For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender staff often fear reprisal should they tell people at work about their sexuality. Those of a particular religion may be worried about prejudicial treatment if they were to tell people about their faith and practice it within the workplace, such as through wearing a headscarf.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination because of:
  • Age
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or having a child
  • Disability
  • Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • Religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
  • Sex, including being or becoming a transgender person
  • Sexual orientation
Employers can help allay workers’ concerns by making it clear that discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace. If you ever feel as if you've been discriminated against or harassed on the basis of one of the characteristics above, you're entitled to report the matter to HR or a more senior member of staff.

If the problem remains unresolved, you should discuss it with your union representative if you have one. If you are not a union member you might consider joining as representatives are trained to assist workers challenge discrimination in the workplace.

Alternatively you may wish to take legal advice from a solicitor who could help you pursue a claim of discrimination to an Employment Tribunal.

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