The Equality Act 2010 grants legal protection to nine protected characteristics (article here).  This means it is against the law to treat people discriminatively at work, in education, as a consumer, when using public services, when buying or renting property, or as members/guests of a private club or association.

If someone feels discriminated against and the matter cannot be resolved informally, contact Acas, Citizens Advice, Civil Legal Advice, Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS), or a trade union representative.  Reserve escalating to an employment tribunal as a last resort.

People do not always discriminate openly.  However, that does not mean discrimination has not taken place.  It is crucial to understand how different types of discrimination can manifest.  There are two main types of discrimination: (1) direct and (2) victimisation.  The sub-divisions of each are listed below with definitions.

  • Direct discrimination – where someone is treated less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic
  • Associative discrimination – direct discrimination against someone because they are associated with another person who possesses a protected characteristic
  • Discrimination by perception – direct discrimination against someone because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic; they do not necessarily have to keep the characteristic, just be perceived to
  • Indirect discrimination – when a rule or policy applies to everyone but disadvantages someone with a particular protected characteristic
  • Harassment – behaviour deemed offensive by someone; employees can  complain of behaviour they find offensive even if it is not directed at them
  • Harassment by a third party – employers are potentially liable for the harassment of their staff or customers by people they do not directly employ, i.e. contractors
  • Victimisation – when someone is poorly treated because they have made or supported a complaint or grievance

Final note: it is considered lawful to have specific rules or arrangements in place that are justifiable, defined as 'positive action'.  This can be exercised when people are disadvantaged, have particular needs, or are under-represented in an activity or type of work.

Sources:  ACAS, Citizens Advice, GOV.UK

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