When referring to real cases, we use aliases.
There are lots of reasons that people are mistreated at work. UK law protects people who are discriminated against because of certain personal attributes. This article gives some examples of what this might look like.
The Equality Act 2010 protects people in England, Scotland and Wales from discrimination. The Act lists nine ‘protected characteristics’. It’s illegal for you to be treated unfairly for reasons that relate to one of these characteristics.
There are some exceptions to these, depending on the characteristic. You can read about these on the Equality and Human Rights Commission guides.
If you’re raising a complaint - either informally or through a formal grievance procedure - you should focus on setting out the facts of how you have been treated, and the impact it has had on you. It’s often a good idea to mention any clear link between the protected characteristics and the way you have been treated.
Being disabled means you have a physical or mental health condition that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your day-to-day life.
You don’t have to disclose your disability. However, your employer won’t be liable for discrimination if they don’t know you’re disabled.
If they do know, or could reasonably be expected to know, that you are disabled, the Equality Act protects you in many different ways.
The disability charity Scope has a discussion forum for employment related issues. This can be helpful if you want to analyse your specific situation.
Racial discrimination includes unfair treatment due to your:
Examples of racial discrimination in the workplace include:
Protections under the Religion or Belief characteristic include:
Examples of religion or belief discrimination in the workplace include:
Sex discrimination means being treated unfairly because of your sex or gender - whether you are male or female. This includes the sex someone thinks you are.
You can’t be discriminated against because you’re pregnant, suffering from pregnancy-related illness, are breastfeeding, or have recently given birth.
Some examples of pregnancy and maternity discrimination include:
The advocacy group Pregnant Then Screwed have an employment rights advice line for pregnant women and new mothers.
This characteristic covers people who identify with a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth.
Under the Equality Act, you don’t need to have undergone any specific treatment or surgery, but you do need to have changed your gender or be taking steps to do so.
The Equality Act doesn’t specifically mention intersex people. However, if you are being discriminated against because you are intersex the Equality and Human Rights Commission says that sex discrimination or disability discrimination may be relevant.
Non-binary identities are not specifically mentioned in the Equality Act, either. However, people have successfully brought cases of non-binary discrimination under the characteristic of Gender Reassignment.
Sexual orientation discrimination also covers expressions of sexual orientation, like appearance or where you spend your time outside of work.
Age discrimination includes your actual age, and how old people think you are.
Age discrimination might mean:
You can’t be discriminated against at work because you’re married or in a civil partnership.
This is a narrow protection and doesn’t include long term partners or offer protection for single people.
Examples might include:
It’s quite common for cases to fall under more than one of these characteristics.
In this case, you should mention all relevant characteristics until you get clearer evidence of which of the protected characteristics are relevant.
If it’s not discrimination, that doesn’t mean that the way you’re being treated is ok. There are plenty of cases brought to the Employment Tribunal that aren’t discrimination. If you’re worried about a situation at work, keep a note of what is happening and try to resolve the problem yourself if you can. You might then want to raise a formal grievance with your employer.
Whatever stage you’re at when dealing with unfair treatment at work, Valla can help. Sign up for a free account for a secure, confidential place to organise your documents and work out what you need to do next.