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Navigating Discrimination at Work: Your Rights and Legal Protections

No one should have to endure discrimination at work. If you're an employee who has faced prejudice or discrimination while working, our solicitors can provide expert assistance in navigating discrimination at work law. Understanding what is discrimination at work, whether it relates to race, gender, disability, or any other protected characteristic, is crucial. Our team is dedicated to advocating for your rights and ensuring that you receive fair treatment in the workplace.

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Are you an employer looking for legal assistance relating to workplace discrimination? Click here to discover how we can help.

What are the different types of discrimination that occur in the workplace?

Under the Equalities Act 2010 there are various types of discrimination: 

Direct discrimination

Where a person is, because of a protected characteristic treated less favourably than another person who does not share that protected characteristic. 

Indirect discrimination

Where an employer’s provision, criterion or practice (PCP) applies to all persons irrespective of protected characteristics but disadvantages a group of individuals with a particular characteristic. Where such an action disadvantages an individual with that characteristic, it will amount to indirect discrimination unless it can be objectively justified.


Where a person engaged in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either; violating an individuals dignity or creating an environment which is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.


Where an individual is treated less favourably because they have done or may do a protected act. A protected act can include; bringing proceedings under EqA 2010, giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under EqA 2010 or making an allegation that another person has contravened EqA 2010. 

What are protected characteristics?

Discrimination is only unlawful if it is connected to one of the characteristics that is protected in law. The Equalities Act 2010 sets out a list of these “protected characteristics” and include: 

Age - protection for all ages and as such discrimination towards someone on the grounds of their age is unlawful) 

Disability - the definition of disability under S.6 EqA 2010 is very specific and recognizes a disability where a person has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

Gender reassignment - this applies if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

Marriage and civil partnership - a person has this protected characteristic if they are married or have a civil partnership under Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Pregnancy and maternity -it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate by treating a job applicant or employee unfavourably during the protected period (from beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave) or because she is in compulsory maternity leave, or is exercising or seeking to exercise the right to ordinary or additional maternity leave).

Race - includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins although this is not a non-exhaustive list)

Religion or belief – religion means any religion, and a reference to religion includes a reference to a lack of religion. “Belief” means any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief.

Sex - this protects a person solely on their sex.

Sexual orientation - defined as a person`s sexual orientation towards persons of; the same sex, the opposite sex or either sex.

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Can employers be held responsible if an employee discriminates against someone at work?

Under EqA 2010, anything done by an employee in the course of their employment is treated as having also been done by the employer. This applies even if the acts were done without the employer’s knowledge or approval. 

In such circumstances, an employee that has been discriminated against can bring a claim against both the perpetrator directly (who will be individually liable) and against the employer. 

Is there a time limit?

A discrimination claim, much like other employment related claims must normally be brought by the end of the period of three months starting with the date of the act to which the complaint relates. There are however exceptions: 

  • A claim may be brought for acts occurring more than three months before the claim is brought if they are part of conduct extending over a period of time. The last act however must be brought within the 3 months’ time limit. 
  • Time can be extended by such a period as the tribunal thinks just and equitable. 
  • Time can also be extended by participation in the Acas early conciliation process provided ACAS have been notified within 3 months. 

What does employment discrimination law cover?

There is no length of service required to bring a claim for discrimination and discrimination issues and claims can arise from the recruitment process prior to employment starting through to termination, including but not limited to: recruitment and advertising, training and development, bullying and harassment, promotion, absence, redundancy and termination.

We can:

  • Support you with an informal complaint or guide you through the grievance process
  • Advise on the strength of your potential discrimination claim. 
  • Notify ACAS and initiate Early Conciliation 
  • Draft the necessary documents and issue proceedings with the Employment Tribunal
  • Assist with preparing evidence 
  • Provide representation throughout the course of the Employment Tribunal claim
  • Provide representation if required in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court

How can our solicitors assist with discrimination matters?

Dealing with discrimination can be a difficult and frightening experience and not something you should have to go through alone. Our solicitors have extensive experience in pursuing discrimination related claims in the Employment Tribunal and can advise, support and represent you through the whole process. To speak to our employment law solicitors, please complete the form below and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your matter.

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Key Contact

Helen Watson

Helen Watson

Partner | Head of Employment Law

Helen has been Head of the Employment Team at Aaron and Partners LLP for over 16 years and is an experienced Tribunal Advocate, Accredited Mediator and Workplace Investigator. Helen is also a Chartered Director and Executive Boardroom Coach.

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