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Many people make unjust distinctions everyday.  Unfortunately this is human nature, but if the person making the distinction is one of your managers then this will implicate your business.

Discrimination is currently a hot topic for employers.  However, more importantly for your business it is the impact it can have for your employees.  It is a situation that can quickly get out of control and spread throughout your workforce.

The Equality Act 2010 is now the main legislation dealing with discrimination.  It sets out a number of “protected characteristics” such as age, gender reassignment, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership, race, pregnancy and maternity.

There are a number of forms of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination: where a person is less favourably treated because of a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination: where a provision, criterion or practice which applies (or would apply) to everyone puts people with a particular characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared with people who do not have that characteristic and which cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  • Discrimination by association: this is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.
  • Perception discrimination: this is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess a particular protected characteristic.  It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.
  • Victimisation:  where a person is subject to a detriment because they have, in good faith, taken action in relation to the discrimination legislation, for example brought proceedings or given evidence or information in a case under the legislation or alleged (expressly or otherwise) that anyone has committed an act which could constitute a breach of the legislation.
  • Harassment
    • Examples of harassment include but are not limited to:
    • Physical contact, verbal or non-verbal conduct, victimisation, name calling, abusive language, mockery, office banter, jokes and bullying or intimidation of a general nature or that specifically targeted at someone because of their gender, age, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation or ethnic origin.

Disability is a common issue for an employer to deal with in the workplace and a company needs to be careful not to discriminate against a worker if they are aware of a disability issue. 

The Equality Act also defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day -to-day activities.

Some illnesses like cancer and multiple sclerosis are classed as disability under the Act. Other illnesess have to be assessed to see whether they fall within the definition set out above.  If an employee is off work long-term an employer should consider obtaining medical consent from the employee in order correspond with their doctor or see an occupational health report.  If an employee is disabled an employer is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Your employee has a maximum period of 3 months from the date of the most recent instance of discrimination in order to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal. This is regardless of any internal grievance or disciplinary procedures that are ongoing.

If you are seeking to put into practice an anti-discrimination policy or if you need assistance with a discrimination issue ActifHR can help you.  

For more information on other HR Policy support from ActifHR, click on another employment topic from the list on the left of this page.