It is a fairly well-known fact that it is unlawful to be discriminatory in the workplace. What is not so well-known is what discrimination actually means in terms of Employment Law. We take a look at various different types of discrimination and what constitutes discrimination in legal terms.

Who can bring a claim?

The law about discrimination in employment is found in the Equality Act 2010. The law protects not just employees but also workers and some self-employed persons. It also offers protection from discrimination to job applicants. 

Protected Characteristics

Protected Characteristics are attributes that are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. This means it is unlawful to discriminate against a person in the workplace for any of the following reasons:

  • Sex or Martial Status
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Trade Union Membership
  • Part-time Work
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Fixed-term Work
  • Pregnancy and Maternity

A common misconception that people tend to have is that unfair treatment at work automatically constitutes discrimination. However, this is not the case.

Example: A man with less than two years’ continuous employment is dismissed by his employer due to his bad breath, which is not caused by one of the characteristics shown above. Although this doesn’t seem fair, it is not, on the face of it, discriminatory. This is because having bad breath is not a protected characteristic and so is not protected under the Equality act.

Types of Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 lists a number of different types of discrimination under the heading “Prohibited Conduct”. There are four “main” types of prohibited conduct which include: Direct Discrimination, Indirect Discrimination, Harassment and Victimisation. These are explored further below.

Types of discrimination

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