Employment law advice in Wimbledon, South West London, Epsom and Surrey

What is discrimination at work?

Discrimination at work is when you suffer some form of discrimination from your employer in relation to work-related decisions, such as: dismissal; your employment terms and conditions; pay and benefits; promotion and transfer opportunities; training; and recruitment. The Equality Act 2010 is the main legislation that covers discrimination at work.

In order to raise a discrimination complaint, you must have at least one of the nine protected characteristics which are listed as: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. If you feel that you have been discriminated against at work, you can complain to your employer by using the grievance procedure and/or by taking them to an employment tribunal.

Here are some commonly asked questions we receive about discrimination at work:

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Bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment cover a wide range of actions – picking on someone, spreading malicious rumours about them, denying them training opportunities or otherwise treating them unfairly at work can amount to bullying and/or harassment.

While there is no specific law against bullying, harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 if it is related to age; disability; sex; sexual orientation; gender reassignment; race;and religion or belief.

Employers can be liable for any harassment their employees suffer at work from their colleagues, and your employers would need show they have taken all reasonable step to prevent harassment in order to successfully defend a claim.

Sickness and Disability

You are considered to be disabled if you have a ‘physical or mental impairment’ and that impairment ‘has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’ which has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months.


Age discrimination encompasses discrimination against people of all ages and at all stages of recruitment, promotion, employment and redundancy. Both workers and employees are covered under the Equality Act 2010. Direct, indirect, victimisation and harassment are all forms of age discrimination in employment which are prohibited.


The protected characteristics governing ‘race’ include:

  1. Colour
  2. Race
  3. Nationality (including citizenship)
  4. Ethnic origin
  5. National origin.


Religion or belief discrimination can occur directly when you treated unfairly because of your religion or religious or philosophical belief.

It can also occur indirectly if you are disadvantaged by a policy, practice or criteria.

Pregnancy and maternity

Pregnant employees have four main legal rights:

  1. Paid time off for antenatal care
  2. Maternity leave
  3. Maternity pay or maternity allowance
  4. Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal


Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics are defined by the Equality Act 2010 and include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Direct discrimination can take place in various forms, such as when someone is excluded from opportunities, caused distress, or made to find it harder to do their job. There are three types of direct discrimination: ordinary direct discrimination; discrimination by association; and discrimination by perception.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is a form of discrimination that occurs when a policy, practice, or rule applies to everyone but has a worse effect on someone because of a protected characteristic. An example of indirect discrimination is a requirement for all employees to work full-time, which may disadvantage those with caring responsibilities.  Employers must be able to justify any indirect discrimination by showing that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

If you believe that you have been unfairly treated at work, you should immediately raise this with your line manager, Human Resources department, or appointed Equality officer. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, you may wish to further your complaint by raising a formal grievance in line with your internal Grievance Policy.

Discrimination in the workplace can be challenging and is also unlawful. Our lawyers are highly experienced and here to help support you, from start to finish. To speak to a specialist employment solicitor about discrimination in the workplace, please contact us.

Our lawyers are highly experienced and here to help. To speak to an employment solicitor, please get in touch.