• Discrimination at work

    It’s essential that both employers and employees educate themselves on what is considered discrimination at work, so that employees can recognise when they or a member of their team is being discriminated against, and employers can ensure they treat employees and applicants fairly. The law protects you against discrimination and unfair treatment at work under the Equality Act 2010.

    If you’re experiencing conflict or prejudice during your employment, it’s important to understand the type of unfair treatment so that you can determine the best course of action. Discrimination and unfair treatment is an umbrella under which sits discrimination itself, workplace bullying, harassment, and victimisation.

    What is The Equality Act 2010?

    The Equality Act aims to promote equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants. Organisations should have policies to ensure they promote positive behaviours and prevent discrimination.

    Under this act, the discrimination is referred to as treating someone ‘less favourably’ than someone else, because of protected characteristics.

    What does ‘protected characteristics’ mean?

    All of the following about an individual are considered protected characteristics:

    • age
    • gender reassignment
    • being married or in a civil partnership
    • being pregnant or on maternity leave
    • disability
    • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
    • religion or belief
    • sex
    • sexual orientation

    What am I protected against?

    The Equality Act of 2010 stipulates that any of the protected characteristics above cannot put you at a disadvantage, and therefore should not be considered by an employer to have a bearing of the following processes:

    • dismissal
    • employment terms and conditions
    • pay and benefits
    • promotion and transfer opportunities
    • training
    • recruitment
    • Redundancy

    The protection extends beyond current employees to job applicants, self employed contractors, and former employees.

  • Direct and indirect discrimination

    There are two main types of discrimination in the workplace. These are:

    Direct discrimination

    This is when an individual is treated less favourably, or put at a disadvantage, because of a protected characteristic that they possess. Less favourable treatment can be described as anything that puts someone with that protected characteristic at a disadvantage compared to someone that doesn’t have it. For example, this could include something that makes it harder to do their job, causes them distress, or exclusion from activities and opportunities.

    Indirect discrimination

    Indirect discrimination at work is subtly different from the direct kind. Indirect discrimination is considered to be when a rule or policy is the same for everyone at a workplace, but is considered to put those with one or more protected characteristics at a disadvantage.

    Types of discrimination in the workplace

    Age discrimination

    This means that an employee’s age has bearing on unfair treatment in comparison to another employee, either because they’re a different age to another applicant, thought to be of a particular age, or associated with an age group.

    Gender reassignment

    Proposing to undergo, undergoing or having undergone the sex reassignment process is a protected characteristic, and therefore it’s against the law to discriminate based on that.

    Relationship status

    Otherwise known as marital discrimination, an individual should not be denied benefits or fair treatment based upon being either single, married, or in a same sex relationship.

    Pregnancy or maternity

    This could look like an applicant being denied a job, or having their employment terminated, because they are pregnant. This also applied to those who have given birth within the last 26 weeks.


    This covers both physical or mental impairment, and failing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them is also considered discrimination, in addition to being put at a disadvantage.

    Racial discrimination

    Racial discrimination refers to a person being put at a disadvantage at work because of their colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origins.


    Putting someone at a disadvantage at work because of their sex is considered discrimination.

    Sexual orientation

    This makes it illegal for an employer to put an employee at a disadvantage because of their sexual orientation.

    Religion or belief

    This could refer to any religion or lack thereof, or any religious or philosophical belief or lack thereof.

  • What to do if you think you’ve been discriminated against

    If you believe that you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, a question and answer process should be your first port of call in understanding if a protected characteristic has led to unfavourable treatment.

    This process should start with a statement from you to your employer, detailing what you believe has happened, and what has led you to feel you’ve been discriminated against. Within this, you can ask them any questions you have about what happened, which gives them a chance to look into what’s happened.

    What questions should you ask your employer about discrimination?

    The questions you ask should relate directly to the specific discrimination you feel you’ve experienced, and should be phrased to try and get to the bottom of it. For example, you could ask:

    • Why you were not promoted
    • Why you were disciplined when others weren’t
    • Who made certain decisions
    • Previous instances that build a discriminatory picture, for example, how many promotions were given to women vs men over the last 5 years
    • Questions on how the employer responds to specific requests (such as flexible working) from different groups within the organisation, such as men and women, or full time employees and part time employees.

    What to do if you witness discrimination at work

    If you witness discrimination or bullying in the workplace and feel safe enough to step in and stop it from happening, this could be an option to take. However, if you don’t, the first step is to approach the person or group you feel were being discriminated against, and ask them if they would like your support, or would like you to report the discrimination on their behalf.

    You should always make a note of what’s happened, including details such as the date and time, location, and nature of what you saw; this is helpful if you decide to report it, or a report is later made that you can use this information to support.

  • What is ACAS?

    ACAS is an executive non-departmental public body, and a service that provides advice to employers and employees on rights within the workplace. It’s a fantastic resource if you feel like you have been discriminated against, and wish to find out more about whether this is the case, and what you can do about it.

    A discrimination specialist legal adviser at your side

    365 Employment Law helps employees to assess their situation and consider the best approach to resolving any conflict. We work across Sussex including Brighton, Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Chichester and can represent you in mediation or support and guide you through the court or tribunal process and help you with your discrimination claim.

    We can assist you in:

    • assessing the type of unfair treatment
    • preparing and attending mediation and alternative dispute resolution
    • helping you to prepare for attending court or tribunal hearings.

    Why choose 365 Employment Law

    Able to advise both employees and employers in the Worthing and wider Sussex area, 365 Employment Law is a local discrimination solicitor who can stay at your side to provide invaluable guidance. From bullying at work to direct and indirect discrimination, we’re experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to the laws around discrimination. Using the Equality Act of 2010, we’ll help you find the resolution you need.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    What is workplace discrimination?

    Workplace discrimination refers to unfair treatment against employees or job applicants based on their protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age, disability, religion, or sexual orientation.

    How can I recognise workplace discrimination?

    Discrimination can take subtle or overt forms. Signs may include being treated unfairly, receiving negative comments, being denied opportunities, or experiencing a hostile work environment due to your protected characteristics.

    How can an employment law solicitor help with workplace discrimination?

    Employment law solicitors can provide legal guidance, assist in filing complaints or claims, negotiate with your employer for resolution, and represent you in legal proceedings if necessary to seek remedies for workplace discrimination.

    What steps can employers take to prevent workplace discrimination?

    Employers can apply anti-discrimination policies, provide training, investigate complaints promptly, and create a culture of inclusivity and equality.

    What is the difference between direct and indirect discrimination?

    Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination happens when a policy or practice that appears neutral has a disproportionate impact on a particular group with a protected characteristic.

    How should my employer respond to my statement?

    They should reply ASAP, though they do not have to legally answer your questions.

    What should I do if my employer doesn’t take my discrimination complaint seriously?

    If your employer fails to address your complaint adequately, you may consider seeking legal advice and potentially escalating the matter to an employment tribunal or court.

    What constitutes harassment?

    According to the 2010 Equality Act, harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour exhibited in one of  three ways:

    The unwanted behaviour must have either violated your dignity, and/or created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.