What is workplace discrimination?
Discrimination in the workplace happens when an individual or group is treated in a different manner to others around them, in either a more favorable or unfavourable way. When discrimination at work exists, it is normally done in a markedly negative way which displays somebody being treated differently or far less favourably from their work colleagues which in turn puts them at a disadvantage caused by this discrimination. Discrimination is prohibited in UK law on the following grounds:
- Sex (gender)
- Sexual Orientation
- Religious or Philosophical Belief
In other words, if an individual is exposed to a detriment which stems from one or more of the grounds listed above, it may well be illegal behaviour. 2 types of discrimination exist; indirect and direct discrimination.
Direct discrimination occurs where, for example, a person is treated in a different way to their colleagues at work as a result of a prohibited reason e.g. their ethnicity, race, sex, marital status, religion or nationality. An example of direct sex discrimination would be if a female employee is paid less by a company than a male colleague for performing exactly the same role. In addition, the woman may also be entitled to put in a claim under the Equal Pay Act 1972.
What is indirect discrimination at work?
Indirect discrimination exists where an employer imposes a restriction or policy which adversely affects a specific group, putting an employee at a disadvantage to their work colleagues; for example, certain religious groups would be affected if a business made a rule that all male employees must come to work clean shaven. This is unlawful discrimination, whether it is done purposefully or not, unless the employer can demonstrate that such discrimination was required for the business, e.g. sometimes for hygiene reasons when preparing food, men are asked to be clean shaven. In age discrimination cases, an employer may have a defense if it can be proved that they were justified in taking the discriminatory action..
If an employee is sacked on discriminatory grounds, he or she might be able to bring about an unfair dismissal claim as well as a claim for discrimination.
An employee could also make a claim for harassment or bullying on the above grounds.