The Equality Act 2010 (‘EA’) covers discrimination at work for all concerns, including recruitment, training, promotion/lack of promotion, differences in pay, unfavourable treatment and dismissal.

Discrimination may occur before employment (job applicants), during employment or in some situations when employment has ended. It may be the result of the employer’s actions, or the actions of the employer’s agents, or other colleagues. All these instances are catered for.

Protection is provided to an individual if s/he suffers less favourable treatment because of a “protected characteristic”. Examples of this include:

What is discrimination?

There are several discrimination types:

Direct Discrimination – occurs when treated less favourably than others due to their protected characteristic.

Indirect Discrimination – occurs when a rule for all employees causes some employees to be affected worse than others.

Harassment – occurs when an individual or group is subjected to hostility or denied opportunity either directly or indirectly due to their protected characteristic.

Victimisation – occurs when an employee is treated unfairly after they make a complaint on someone else's behalf.

Disciplinary and Grievance procedures

Both employees and employers should be aware that discrimination claims may be required to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance Procedures (www.acas.org.uk). A successful claim can be reduced by up to 25% if the Code is ignored.

Are there exceptions to discrimination law?

Retirement - an employer's decision to institute compulsory retirement can be justified in certain cases if the employee is shown to be incapable of performing their job sufficiently due to their age.

Benefits - some employees can be given benefits over others if they have been employed for a certain level of time. This can be seen as indirect discrimination towards those who do not quality unless the employer can demonstrate the benefit motivates, meets legitimate business needs or is a reward for loyalty and experience.

Taking action

Most discrimination claims need to be made within three months less one day from the date of the discrimination and will be dealt with by an Employment Tribunal. If the discrimination is ongoing then the time period will run from the last day discriminatory behaviour took place.

How is a discrimination claim decided?

An employee will need to prove a discriminatory behaviour or event has occurred, which an employer must then attempt to justify. If this is not possible compensation will likely be awarded.