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Employment Law > Workplace Discrimination > Types of Workplace Discrimination

Types of Workplace Discrimination

Employment Solicitor Martin Malone looks at the different types of Workplace Discrimination mentioned in The Equality Act 2010

Unlawful discrimination can occur in a number of different ways. For the avoidance of doubt all of the types of dsicrimination listed below can occur in employment situations and are applicable when discussing unlawful discrimination:


Direct discrimination (s.13 EA 2010)

You must not treat a person less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic.


Indirect discrimination (s.19 EA 2010)

An employer must not do something to people who share a particular protected characteristic that would disadvantage them over people who do not have that characteristic. This is relevant where an employer has a condition, rule, practice or policy that applies to everyone but that disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic.


Indirect discrimination can be acceptable if you can show that it is objectively justified, i.e. that it was "a proportionate means to achieving a legitimate aim". For example, if an employer can show that they acted reasonably in managing their business. In order to be proportionate an employer should act fairly and reasonably and be able to show that they have considered less discriminatory alternatives to any decision made.


With regards to previous legislation, indirect discrimination already applied to age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation and marriage and, civil partnership, and is now extended to cover disability and gender reassignment.


Associative discrimination

An employer not treat a person worse than someone else because they are associated with a person who possesses a protected characteristic.


Previously, associative discrimination applied to race, religion or belief and sexual orientation and has now been extended to cover age, disability, gender reassignment and sex.


Perceptive discrimination

An employer must not treat a person worse because you incorrectly or correctly think they possess a protected characteristic.


Previously, perceptive discrimination applied to age, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation but has now been extended to cover disability, gender reassignment and sex.


Victimisation (s.27 EA 2010)

An employer must not treat someone badly because they have made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Act. An employee will not be protected under this section if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint. Under the Act there is no longer a need to compare treatment of a complainant with that of a person who has not made or supported a complaint.


Harassment (s.26 EA 2010)

Harassment is defined as, "unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual".


Harassment applies to all protected characteristics except for pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership. Under the Act an employee will now be able to complain of behaviour they find offensive even if it is not directed at them, and they do not need to possess the protected characteristic themselves.


Third party harassment

The Act now makes employers potentially liable for harassment of their employees by third parties who are not employees of the company, for example customers or clients.


However, in this situation an employer will only be liable in situations where:

  • Harassment has occurred on at least two previous occasions.
  • The employer was aware that the harassment had taken place.
  • They have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it from happening again.

Previously, third party harassment applied to sex but has now been extended to cover, age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.


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