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What is workplace discrimination

What is discrimination in the workplace

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Workplace discrimination is something that everybody has heard of, yet it can be confusing knowing what does and doesn’t count as discrimination.

There are laws in place to prevent employers treating their employees poorly or differently because of their race, age, gender, sexual preference or disability.

In order to determine your rights, you need to first understand exactly what workplace discrimination is.

Understanding workplace discrimination

There are many ways workplace discrimination can crop up. It could be that a female employee is being paid less than a male colleague for doing the exact same job. Or it could be that an employee is not being given the same opportunities as others due to their ethnicity.

While there are laws protecting employees against workplace discrimination, there are some types that aren’t currently protected. Put simply, if you are treated unfairly and it isn’t due to an unlawful reason, you don’t have any legal rights.

So what is an unlawful reason? Currently unlawful discrimination relates to being treated differently because of:

  • You are in a civil partnership or married
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender including gender reassignment
  • Disability
  • Maternity leave or pregnancy
  • Colour
  • Race/ethnic background
  • Age
  • Beliefs or religion

Various other laws also protect those who are treated less favourably or dismissed because they work part time or if they’re on a fixed term contract.

Types of discrimination

What is workplace discriminationThere are many ways discrimination can rear its ugly head. Whether direct or indirect; both should not be accepted.

Direct discrimination typically relates to employers treating a person unfairly because of any of the above reasons. It is obvious discrimination. However, there are a few exceptions where employers can be slightly bias when choosing employees. For example, one requirement you might have to meet to work within a catholic school is that you need to be catholic yourself. This is an understandable requirement and is therefore not direct discrimination.

Indirect discrimination is still against the law no matter whether it is intentional or not. In a job advertisement it might state ‘candidates must be clean shaven’. As innocent as this might sound, it actually prevents certain groups of people from applying due to their religious practices. The only way this wouldn’t be unlawful is if the job was to handle food and being clean shaven was a necessity for hygiene.

Harassment and victimisation

The law also protects employees from harassment and victimisation. It is never acceptable for an employee to be made fun of or harassed at work. Racial abuse and sexist language fall into this category. Any behaviour that is intimidating or offensive is against the law.

Victimisation relates to a person being treated poorly because they made a complaint regarding discrimination. This could be that you aren’t being given the same opportunities as your colleagues or you could be excluded from meetings and social events.

If you feel like you are being discriminated against for an unlawful reason, you do have the right to take legal action. The Citizens Advice Bureau is just one place you can go for free advice. Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence and there is help available.



About Jemma Porter

About Jemma Porter

Jemma Porter is an experienced content creator who has written for a number of online publications. A self-confessed penny pincher; she's often found seeking out the best personal finance deals.

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