The word discrimination can be quite a common word used daily to describe unfair treatment for a particular reason. Everyone has the right to work in an environment that treats everyone equally, and with respect.
What is discrimination within a workplace setting?
Discrimination happens when you are treated less unfairly compared to others because of a personal attribute about you rather than your ability to do your job. It can be intentional or unintentional, direct, or indirect. Discrimination can come in the form of persistent jokes or off-the-cuff comments that seem harmless to some but that can be offensive to the receiver.
Under the Equality Act 2010, It is unlawful to discriminate against someone due to their protected attributes:
- Race, colour, national extraction, or social origin
- Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Physical, intellectual, mental, or psychiatric disability
- Pregnancy or potential pregnancy
- Marital status, relationship status, and family or carer’s responsibilities
- Political opinion
- Trade union activity
Instances of discrimination occurring in the workplace can include:
- Job refusal
- Being dismissed or having shifts cut down
- Denial of training opportunities, transfers, and promotions
- Not being paid the same as someone doing the same job with the same experience and qualifications
- Exclusion or isolation by co-workers
- Having information that you need to do your job deliberately withheld
- Being given impossible tasks in the time you have
- Being subjected to taunts or abuse
Examples of discrimination in the workplace
Susan is 5 months pregnant and has been working for the business since the start of trade 10 years ago. A senior job position comes up and even though Susan has more qualifications and knowledge about the business, she didn’t get the job. When she asked the director why she was overlooked, the reply was “We need someone who will be fully committed”.
David started working for a new retail company on an 8-hour contract. His days can vary but, his employers then told him he must work on a Saturday. David told them during the interview process that because of his Jewish faith, Saturday is a religious day, and he cannot work. He was offered the job, then the terms changed.
Amy has a physical disability which means she needs to use a wheelchair in the workplace. As a result, she cannot carry heavy items. Amy discussed her salary with a co-worker doing the same job and she was paid 30% more. When Amy approached her boss he said that she “didn’t do as much as the others in the department so the wage was reflective of that”.
What is not counted as discrimination in the workplace?
Discrimination law is not always straightforward. Sometimes you may be treated in a way that appears to be discriminatory but is not. This may be the case if your employer has a good reason for their actions, but they need to be able to justify their actions.
How should you handle discrimination in the workplace?
There are various actions an employee can take if they believe they’ve been discriminated against at work. The first course of action would be by raising the matter informally with your employer. Issues can hopefully be resolved quickly this way. Your employer should look into this for you, but if not, you should raise it formally with your employer. This will involve following the grievance procedure in place in your workplace. The employer should then investigate the matter thoroughly.
If you are unhappy with the outcome, consider seeking legal advice. As specialist employment law experts, McPartland & Sons are well-positioned to advise you on the steps you can take, contact us to speak to one of the team.