Discrimination

FAQ

Age

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person at work because of their age.  There are detailed requirements on retirement and failure to comply with these requirements can lead to claims for age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Discrimination at work on the grounds of age is against the law and yet surveys show that many people feel that they are treated unfairly at work because of their age.

There are different types of age discrimination, namely direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  Direct age discrimination is some detrimental action against an employee because of their age, whatever it is.  Indirect age discrimination arises because of some requirement of the employment that puts an employee at a disadvantage because of their age for example, that a particular job requires a high degree of fitness, which generally favours younger people, or a certain amount of experience, which generally favours older people.  The law recognises that there will be cases where such requirements are justified, but it requires a high standard of proof.

Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment at work. Ageist jokes or remarks are caught by this. Victimisation is some detrimental action against an employee because they have brought proceedings or asserted their employment rights under the age discrimination legislation.

The law covers discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, the terms of the employment contract, promotion and training, discipline and dismissal.  Common issues include:

  • benefits and holiday depending on length of service
  • health insurance for employees over retirement age
  • length of service taken into account for redundancy selection
  • requiring certain experience or qualifications
  • education and training

Retirement

The compulsory retirement of company employees at the age of 65 is no longer permitted.  If an employee is forced to retire, they will have a claim for unfair dismissal and age discrimination unless the employer has established a new retirement age for the organisation which is above the age of 65 and which is objectively justified.  Objective justification of any compulsory retirement age is likely to be very difficult. 

Age Discrimination Claims

Claims of age discrimination in employment are brought in the employment tribunal.  Anything done by another employee in the course of their employment is treated as done by the employer. So, discrimination by a colleague, even without your knowledge or approval, may give an employee a right to bring a claim.

Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination.  If the claim is not brought within the time allowed, the employee will lose the right to do so. If an age discrimination claim is successful, the employee may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings.

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Disability

It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because they are disabled.  Our solicitors can explain the employment rights of disabled people and the legal consequences if they are not met.

A person is disabled if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.  Normal day-to-day activities are everyday things such as eating, washing, walking and travelling around and they are not limited to the things done at work. A normal day-to-day activity must affect one of the 'capacities' listed in the Disability Discrimination Act which include mobility, manual dexterity, speech, hearing, seeing and memory.

An employee must not be discriminated against because they are disabled or for a reason related to their disability. The law recognises that there will be cases where certain requirements that place disabled persons at a disadvantage are justified, but a high standard of proof is required, and the law may still require adjustments to be made to the employee’s working arrangements and place of work.

Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment at work. Disability jokes or remarks are caught by this. Victimisation is some detrimental action against an employee because they have brought proceedings or asserted their employment rights under the disability discrimination legislation.

The law covers discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, the terms of the employment contract, promotion and training, discipline and dismissal. Common issues include:

  • interview and recruitment arrangements
  • adjustments to working arrangements
  • time off for medical treatment
  • periods of absence and sick  pay

Right to adjustments

If an employee is disabled, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their working arrangements to overcome the disadvantages caused by their disability.  Whether it is appropriate to make a particular adjustment will depend on whether it is likely to be effective and on a number of other considerations, including the cost.  Some examples of reasonable adjustments are:

  • allocating some of the employee’s work to someone else
  • transferring the employee to another post or another place of work
  • making adjustments to the place where the employee works
  • changing the employee’s hours of work
  • providing training
  • providing special equipment
  • making instructions and manuals more accessible.

 

Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination.  If the employee does not bring a claim in time they will lose their right to do so. If a disability discrimination claim is successful, the employee may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings. 

Claims of disability discrimination in employment are brought in the employment tribunal.  Anything done by another employee in the course of their employment is treated as done by the employer. So, discrimination by a colleague, even without your knowledge or approval, may give the employee a right to bring a claim.

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Equal Pay

Are you faced with an issue of equal pay? The law relating to equal pay is complex.  Our solicitors can explain the legal requirements and the legal consequences if they are not met.

Since the 1970s, women have been able to claim equal pay with men. Pay in this context includes contractual benefits, including bonuses and pension contributions, as well as basic wages or salary. The right to equal pay applies to men as well as to women. 

The Equal Pay Act does not straightforwardly prohibit discrimination in pay. Instead it adopts a rather artificial approach.  It applies an equality clause into the woman’s contract of employment to change it where she does any of the following:

  • like work to a man
  • work rated as equivalent to work done by a man
  • work of equal value to that done by a man.

The change makes woman’s terms the same as the man doing this work, unless the employer can show that the difference between the woman’s contract of employment and the man’s is genuinely due to a material factor which is not the difference of sex.  Examples of these material factors include:

  • length of service 
  • skill shortages
  • geographical differences
  • different skills, qualifications and experience

These factors have to be justified in every case as not ‘tainted with discrimination’. The European Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission publish codes of practice, which although not legally binding, may be used in evidence in equal pay claims.

Equal Pay claims

Claims of equal pay are normally brought in the employment tribunal.  The claim must normally be brought within 6 months of the termination of the employee’s employment. Claims in the civil court can be brought for up to 6 years after the right to claim arose.  The procedures in equal pay cases can be complicated and expert evidence is required.

If an employee brings an equal pay claim and it is successful, they may be awarded arrears of pay or benefits for up to 6 years before the case started. Compensation for injury to feelings is not awarded.

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

 

Family Rights

Has an employee complained about the exercise of their family rights at work?  Our solicitors can explain the law and how to deal with the legal issues.

An employee must not be dismissed or subject to any detriment as a result of any action you take or fail to take because they have exercised their family rights at work or wish to do so. Examples of detrimental treatment include denial of promotion, facilities or training opportunities which you would otherwise have made available to the employee.

There are a number of employment rights at work for parents or those with responsibility for a child.  These are:

  • maternity leave and pay
  • adoption leave and pay
  • paternity leave and pay
  • parental leave
  • the right to flexible working and
  • the right to time off for certain emergencies.

 

The right to time off extends to carers of adults.

In addition the law of sex discrimination may assist a woman wanting to work part-time for family reasons.

Family Rights Discrimination claims

There are a number of circumstances where a company is not entitled to dismiss an employee in connection with the exercise of their family rights at work.  If this occurs, it will be automatically unfair and the employee does not need a qualifying period of one year to bring a claim. If an employee is selected for redundancy in connection with the exercise of their family rights, this will be automatically unfair, unless the criteria under which they were selected are objectively justified.

Claims for family rights discrimination and dismissal are normally brought in the employment tribunal.  Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination or dismissal. If a family rights discrimination claim is successful, the employee may be awarded such compensation as the employment tribunal considers just and equitable. 

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Fixed term worker

Do you know the employment rights of fixed term workers?  Our solicitors can explain the law and how to deal with the legal issues.

If you have fixed term workers, they have the right not to be treated less favourably than you treat a comparable permanent employee on the grounds of their fixed term status:

  • as regards the terms of their contract or
  • by being subjected to any other detriment by an act or deliberate failure to act on your part.

The employee has to identify a permanent employee in the same category who is doing the same or broadly similar work.  If they can do so, they are entitled to be treated the same in relation to pay and benefits.  This means that they should receive the same pay and other benefits as the comparable permanent employee although the position as a whole is looked at rather than each term individually.  Length of service criteria for benefits (such as sick pay and insurance benefits) must be the same for permanent and fixed term staff.  However, in some cases, detrimental treatment of a fixed term worker can be justified.

You must inform fixed term workers of available vacancies in the same way as permanent staff. If an employee is employed with the company on successive fixed term contracts for 4 years, their contract will normally be converted to a permanent one.

Fixed term worker Discrimination Claims

If an employee considers that they have been discriminated against as a fixed term worker, they can write to you requesting a written statement of the reasons for the treatment.  This statement must be provided within 21 days. If it is not, and the employee brings proceedings, the employment tribunal is entitled to draw any inference from this which it considers appropriate.

If an employee is dismissed, made redundant, is victimised or suffers some other detriment on the grounds that they are employed under a fixed term contract, they may well have grounds for a claim to the employment tribunal.

There are strict time limits to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for dismissal or detriment to a fixed term worker, usually within 3 months of the dismissal or alleged act causing detriment. 

On a successful claim the employment tribunal can award such compensation as is just and equitable having regard to the detriment caused to the employee and any loss as a result of this, but not including injury to feelings.  The compensation can be reduced if the employee contributed to the culpable act or failed to mitigate their loss.

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Part-time worker

Do you know the employment rights of part-time workers?  Our solicitors can explain the law and how to deal with the legal issues.

If you have part-time workers, they have the right not to be treated less favourably by you than you treat a comparable full-time worker on the grounds of their part-time status:

  • as regards the terms of their contract
  • by being subjected to any other detriment.

 

The employee has to identify a full-time worker in the same category and who is doing the same or broadly similar work.  If they can do so, they may be entitled to be treated pro-rata.  This means that they must not receive less than the proportion that their weekly hours bear to the comparable full-time worker in relation to pay and benefits. However, a part-time worker is not able to claim overtime rates until they have worked more than the normal full-time hours.  Apart from this, a part-timer can only be paid at a lower hourly rate of pay than a full-timer if this is justified on objective grounds. This extends to sick pay and maternity pay.

If a benefit cannot easily be awarded pro-rata (for example, health insurance or a subsidised mortgage), the part-time worker is entitled to be offered a comparable benefit.

Part-time worker Discrimination Claims

If an employee considers that they have been discriminated against as a part-time worker, they can write to you requesting a written statement of the reasons for the treatment.  This statement must be provided within 21 days. If it is not, and they bring proceedings, an employment tribunal is entitled to draw any inference from this which it considers appropriate.

If an employee is dismissed, made redundant, is victimised or suffers some other detriment on the grounds that they work part-time, they may well have grounds for a claim to the employment tribunal. Dismissal of a woman on the grounds that she works part-time may be sex discrimination.

There are strict time limits to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for dismissal or detriment as a part-time worker, and for sex discrimination, usually within 3 months of the dismissal or alleged act complained of.

On a successful claim the employment tribunal can award such compensation as is just and equitable having regard to the detriment caused to the employee and any loss as a result of this.  Compensation for part-time worker discrimination does not include an element for injury to feelings.  The compensation can be reduced if the employee contributed to the culpable act or failed to mitigate their loss.

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Pregnancy & Maternity

Has an employee alleged that you have discriminated against her because of pregnancy or because of her maternity arrangements?  We explain these employment rights.

A woman must not be subjected to any detriment by you in action you take or fail to take because she is pregnant, has given birth to a child, has taken statutory maternity leave or sought to do so.

Examples of potentially detrimental treatment include:

  • denial of promotion, facilities or training opportunities which would otherwise have been made available to the employee but for the exercise of pregnancy or maternity rights
  • dismissal because an employee is pregnant
  • refusal to employ an employee because she has children
  • unjustified refusal to allow part-time working to suit childcare arrangements
  • requiring an employee  with children to work anti-social hours or to move location

The law recognises that there will be cases where the employer’s actions can be justified, but it requires a high standard of proof.

During Statutory Maternity leave an employee is entitled to all of the terms of their employment contract other than pay. There are special rules for the calculation of benefits such as pension contributions and salary sacrifice.

There are special rights in relation to:

  • health and safety during pregnancy
  • time off for ante-natal care
  • maternity related illness during pregnancy
  • redundancy during maternity leave
  • returning to work
  • dismissal as a result of pregnancy or maternity leave.

 

Pregnancy & Maternity Discrimination claims

There are a number of circumstances where an employee is entitled not to be dismissed in connection with the exercise of their pregnancy and maternity rights.  If this occurs, the dismissal will be automatically unfair and the employee does not need a qualifying period to bring a claim. There are special rules in relation to redundancy for employees on maternity leave.

Claims of pregnancy and maternity discrimination and dismissal are normally brought in the employment tribunal. Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination. If an employee brings a pregnacy and maternity discrimination claim and it is successful, they may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings. 

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Racial 

Has an employee alleged that they have suffered from any form of racial discrimination? Our solicitors can explain these employment rights and the legal consequences if they are not met. It is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of their race, nationality, colour or national or ethnic origin. 

There are different types of racial discrimination, namely direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  Direct racial discrimination is some detrimental action against an employee because of their race, nationality, colour or national or ethnic origin.  Indirect racial discrimination arises because of some requirement of  the employment that puts an employee at a disadvantage because of their race or nationality, for example, that a particular job requires a UK qualification, which people from abroad are less likely to hold.  The law recognises that there will be cases where such requirements are justified, but it requires a high standard of proof.

Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment at work. This might include racist jokes or remarks. Victimisation is some detrimental action against an employee because they have brought proceedings or asserted their employment rights under the race discrimination legislation.

The law covers discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, the terms of employment, promotion and training, discipline or dismissal. Common issues include:

  • selection and recruitment arrangements
  • investigating complaints of racist or unfair treatment
  • racist remarks

 

Racial discrimination claims

Claims of racial discrimination in employment are normally brought in the employment tribunal.  Anything done by another employee in the course of their employment is treated as done by the employer. So, discrimination by a colleague, even without your knowledge or approval, may give an employee a right to bring a claim.

Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination.  If an employee brings a racial discrimination claim and it is successful, they may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings. 

 

Religion or belief

It is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of an employee’s religion or similar belief.  Our solicitors can explain these employment rights and the legal consequences if they are not met.

Discrimination at work on the grounds of religion or belief is against the law.  Religion means any religion. An employee does not have to be a devout member of a religion to suffer discrimination. The law protects employees from detrimental treatment for expressing a view that is held by their religion, for example, if they are a Roman Catholic, that abortion is unacceptable. Belief means any philosophical belief which is similar to religion.  This does not have to include belief in a God as long as it is a profound belief affecting the employee’s way of life or perception of the world.  But the law does not allow non-believers to be treated any less favourably than those who hold religious or similar beliefs. 

There are different types of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, namely direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  Direct discrimination is some detrimental action on the grounds of employee’s religion or belief or lack of it. Indirect discrimination can arise where some requirement of employment puts an individual at a disadvantage because of their religion, for example, that employees are not allowed headwear, which is a disadvantage to a Sikh who wears a turban for religious reasons.  The law recognises that there will be cases where such requirements are justified, but it requires a high standard of proof.

Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment at work.  This may include jokes or remarks about religion which an employee finds offensive. Victimisation is some detrimental action because an individual has brought proceedings or asserted employment rights under the legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

The law covers discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, the terms of the employment contract, promotion, training, discipline and dismissal.  Common issues include:

  • dress codes
  • dietary requirements
  • prayers rooms
  • working hours
  • time off and holidays.

 

Discrimination claims

Claims of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in employment are brought in the employment tribunal.  Anything done by another employee in the course of their employment is treated as done by the employer. So, discrimination by a colleague, even without your knowledge or approval, may give an employee a right to bring a claim.

Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination. If the claim is not brought within the time allowed, the employee may lose their right to do so. If a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief is successful, the employee may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings. 

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

 

Sex 

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person at work because of their gender or marital status.  Failure to comply with the law can lead to claims for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.  Our solicitors can explain these employment rights and the legal consequences if they are not met.

It is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of gender or marital status.

There are different types of sex discrimination, namely direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  Direct sex discrimination is some detrimental action against an employee because of their gender or marital status.  Indirect sex discrimination arises because of some requirement of the employment that puts the employee at a disadvantage because of their gender or marital status, for example, that a particular job requires people of a particular height, which puts a woman at a disadvantage.  The law recognises that there will be cases where such requirements are justified, but it requires a high standard of proof for this.

There are specific laws in relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.  There are also laws in relation to equal pay.

Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment at work. This may include sexist jokes or remarks which the employee finds offensive.  Victimisation is some detrimental action because an individual has brought proceedings or asserted their employment rights under the sex discrimination legislation.

The law covers discrimination in all aspects of employment including recruitment, the terms of the employment contract, promotion and training, discipline and dismissal.  Common issues include:

  • allocation of work and duties
  • selection and recruitment arrangements
  • selection for promotion
  • pay and bonus arrangements
  • stereotypical assumptions

 

Sex discrimination claims

Claims of sex discrimination in employment are normally brought in the employment tribunal.  Anything done by another employee in the course of their employment is treated as done by the employer. So, discrimination by a colleague, even without your knowledge or approval, may give an employee a right to bring a claim.

Because discrimination can be hard to prove, there are rules of evidence which can assist employees in bringing a claim to the employment tribunal. However there are strict time limits to bring a sex discrimination claim in the employment tribunal, usually within 3 months of the alleged act of discrimination. If the claim is not brought within the time allowed, the employee may lose the right to do so. If a claim for sex discrimination is successful, the employee may be awarded compensation for loss of earnings and employment benefits and for injury to feelings. 

Our solicitors can advise your company on all aspects of discrimination policy and procedure.

 

Meet the Discrimination team