Q1. "Brian is 38.  He works for an internet company.  Brian is also the main carer for his elderly father.  He is refused time off to help take his father to the hospital.  He feels this is discriminatory and points out that another employee was recently given time off to go to the dentist during work hours.  Is this discrimination, and if so, what kind?"

In the UK, discrimination, as delineated by the Equality Act 2010, refers to the dissimilar or less favourable treatment of an individual due to a protected characteristic (i.e., age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) (EHRC, 2011).  Or, in the case example of Brian, caring responsibilities.  Brian is the primary carer for his elderly father and was refused authorised absence by his employer, an internet company, to accompany him to the hospital.  Before this, another employee was approved for authorised absence by the employer to attend a dental appointment during work hours.  Based on the facts given, the outcome of Brian’s request could be considered discriminative for less favourable treatment owing to caring responsibilities.

If upheld, this type of discrimination could be an example of ‘indirect discrimination’ in the Equality Act 2010 (EHRC, 2011).  This occurs when a neutral policy or practice has a detrimental impact on someone with a protected characteristic compared to others (EHRC, 2011).  In Brian’s case, the employer’s refusal to grant authorised absence for the primary carer of an elderly man is potentially grounds for ‘indirect discrimination’ against carers and Brian’s association with his aged father, an elderly man.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits ‘indirect discrimination’ and requires employers to demonstrate a policy or practice is proportionate in realising a legitimate goal.  To legitimatise the refusal, the employer would have to demonstrate Brian’s authorised absence constituted a meaningful detriment to the employer, such as leaving work during a heightened online activity (i.e., Black Friday), and evidence alternative arrangements were considered (Armstrong & Taylor, 2023).  By extension to another employee being granted authorised absence for a dental appointment, the employer must establish a non-discriminatory reason for the difference in treatment Brian (i.e., duration, urgency versus non-urgency, quiet versus busy business period) (Armstrong & Taylor, 2023).  Past implementation of the organisation’s policies and practices could be used to determine whether Brian’s outcome was discriminative.


  • Armstrong, M., & Taylor, S. (2023). Managing diversity and inclusion. In Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of People Management (16th ed., pp. 298-302). Kogan Page.
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). (2011). Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice: Employment Statutory Code of Practice. Retrieved 6 February 2023, from https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/employment-statutory-code-practice

Q2. "Mackenzie Ltd is based in an area where racial tensions are high and white unemployment is high.  They decided it was important to narrow the gap and provide work for British people who were out of work.  They believe they are doing something necessary for society, and their general manager believes in 'British jobs for British workers'.  They, therefore, reject an application from Marco, an Italian man, although he is the best qualified for the job.  Marco takes them to an employment tribunal, claiming race discrimination.  Do you think he can establish his case?  Can the company rely on its intention of reducing unemployment for British workers as justification?"

Under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, an employer discriminating against an employee, or job applicant, based on race is a direct contravention of the Act (EHRC, 2011).  In the case example of Marco, a man of Italian nationality, applied for a job at Mackenzie Ltd and alleges he was rejected because of his nationality.  This would constitute ‘direct discrimination’ if proven at an employment tribunal.  This is because the Equality Act 2010 defines ‘race’ as ethnicity, inclusive of other aspects such as colour, nationality, or ethnic/national origins (EHRC, 2011).  If Marco were treated less favourably than other applicants because of his nationality, it would violate the protected characteristic of race.

For Marco to validate his claim of ‘direct discrimination’ because of race, his evidence would need to demonstrate the general manager held a specific belief or bias and how it contributed to Marco’s rejection.  Marco could support his claim by: 1) obtaining Mackenzie Ltd policies/procedures relating to recruitment and diversity, 2) submitting a subject access request (SAR) under the Data Protection Act 2018 to gather information about the recruitment/selection process (i.e., copy of Marco’s interview notes), 3) approaching other applicants to evidence comparative treatment based on race (i.e., witness statements), and 4) evidencing qualification through certificates, references, and experience.

If the belief of the general manager, a decision-maker of Mackenzie Ltd, were materially proven by promoting “British jobs for British workers” practices, it would be incriminating.  This could be substantiated by the general manager’s statements, emails, written communications, or testimony of witnesses' observations.  Whether Mackenzie Ltd does or does not condone the general manager’s beliefs/actions would not exonerate the organisation of responsibility.  Employers are liable for their employees’ actions under the Equality Act 2010 (EHRC, 2011).  Additionally, if the general manager is proven to hold such biased beliefs, does not necessarily substantiate it factored into Marco’s outcome.  Providing additional evidence demonstrating discrimination related to Marco’s outcome would strengthen the direct discrimination claim.


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