Our employment team has a wealth of experience of discrimination in the workplace law, regularly acting for employers in relation to complex and high value discrimination, harassment and diversity matters.
The Equality Act 2010 imposes various obligations on employers as well as giving job applicants and workers a variety of rights. Under the Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of nine protected areas, which the Act calls ‘protected characteristics’.
We advise clients regularly on the minefield of workplace discrimination legislation, from the recruitment process right through to post termination. These include issues such as harassment during employment, all forms on the grounds of age, sex, race and other protected characteristics, equal pay and the various forms of disability including employer’s responsibilities around reasonable adjustments.
We also provide bespoke training and policies to avoid and to assist clients with defending discrimination claims in addition to helping our clients with audit processes in order to support gender and ethnic pay reporting.
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Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination refers to the prejudicial treatment of different categories of people. In the workplace, there are nine categories of people who are legally protected (these categories are referred to as the ‘protected characteristics’). The protected characteristics are age; sex; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation; disability; pregnancy and maternity; marriage and civil partnership; and gender reassignment.
The four main types of discrimination are:
- Direct – this seeks to protected someone who is treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic
- Indirect – this applies where a provision, criteria or practice of the employer applies to all but actually more negatively impacts those with a protected characteristic
- Harassment – generally speaking, this applies where someone engages in unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose of effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating a intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them
- Victimisation – this seeks to protect individuals from a detriment who are being targeted because they have done (or may do) a protected act, such as bringing a discrimination claim.
The law sets out nine ‘protected characteristics’ which are legally recognised categories on which discrimination may be based. These are: age; sex; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation; disability; pregnancy and maternity; marriage and civil partnership; and gender reassignment.
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term referring to natural variations in brain function which may affect mental functions.
Employers are, under certain circumstances, under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled job applicants and employees (including former employees).
The type of adjustment will depend on the circumstances but may include adjustments to premises, duties and terms of employment (such as working hours, place of work), policies and procedures (such as absence management and redundancy procedures), providing information in more accessible formats and providing additional support including mentoring, supervision or equipment. It is generally a good place to start to discuss the matter with the employee to see what they need.
How to make an adjustment will depend on what it is. For example it may be that a contract variation letter is required or that physical changes are needed to the premises. Once made it’s important to consider whether anyone needs to be told about the adjustments (such as a supervisor) to ensure they are given effect.
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