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What would be discrimination at work?

Unlawful discrimination is discrimination in relation to one of the ‘protected characteristics’. These are:

  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Age
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Religion or belief

Discrimination can take the form of either direct or indirect discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

What is direct discrimination at work?

Direct discrimination is where a person (A) treats another person (B) less favourably than they treat, or would treat, others, and they do so because of a protected characteristic.

The person claiming discrimination would have to show that other employees would not have been treated in the same way. If the employer can show that they would have treated all employees similarly badly, it would not be direct discrimination. Therefore the person claiming discrimination should have a comparator. This comparator may be a real person or a hypothetical person. Comparators must not be materially different from the person claiming discrimination.

What is indirect discrimination at work

Indirect discrimination is different from direct discrimination in that it does not involve workers being treated differently. It is a type of discrimination that arises when, although the employer treats all the workers the same, some aspect of that uniform treatment affects one group of workers adversely compared to another. An example of this would be an employer requiring workers to work long and/or uncertain hours, which women might find particularly difficult to comply with because a far greater percentage of them than men are primary child carers.

Find out more about making a claim for discrimination at work.

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