What to do if you have been subject to discrimination at work?

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Our employment team outline discrimination at work and what you can do if you have been discriminated against based on a protected characteristic. 

What are the relevant protected characteristics?

The relevant protected characteristics are set out in the Equalities Act 2010: Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy, sex or sexual orientation. 

What is discrimination at work?

Discrimination at work falls into six types: 

Direct Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is when a rule, policy or practice within the company disadvantages someone with a protected characteristic unfairly over others. An example would be if a policy is changed that all staff must work full time to disadvantage an employee on maternity leave from requesting flexible working. 

Indirect Discrimination

Direct discrimination is where you are treated differently to others because of a protected characteristic. An example would be if a woman is overlooked for a promotion because of her sex for a less qualified male. Alternatively, an older applicant is overlooked because of their age for a role on the assumption that they are less technology savvy. 

Discrimination based on disability

Harassment is the unwanted attention or behaviour that you find offensive that is based on a protected characteristic. Examples of harassment in the workplace include racial insults, mocking a protected characteristics or display discriminatory symbols. 


This is being disadvantaged based on your disability. This could include failing to hire or accommodate someone because of their disability. 


Victimisation is where you are treated badly because you complained about discrimination. An example of victimisation would be if you complained that a colleague was being racially stereotyped and the manager treats you worse because you have brought this to their attention. 

Failure to make reasonable adjustments

A failure to make reasonable adjustment is when an employer fails to ensure that those with protected characteristics are not substantially disadvantaged. If an employee has a back issue and the employer fails to prove a back support for their chair. 

What should you do if you are discriminated against?

If you feel confident, you may wish to discuss your issue with the individual who you believe is discriminating against you and ask them to change their behaviour However, if you do not or the behaviour does not change then you should follow your company discrimination policy or grievance policy. You should outline your grievance and how it has made you feel. 

You are owed a legal duty by your employer to make adjustments if you have been discriminated against. It would be sensible to set out what you feel are reasonable adjustments and how they might help you prior to any meeting with your employer. 

If you feel that you have been discriminated against or that you have supported a colleague and been victimised, then you should seek support. Speak to one of our employment team immediately to discuss your options. No one should be subjected to discrimination and behaviour that causes them undue stress. So, it is important to seek advice at an early stage so that the behaviour is not prolonged. 

Jason McKenzie

Jason McKenzie has joined us as a Director, specialising in a range of legal areas including employment, commercial and public sector work.

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