Your rights regarding discrimination at work
Equal opportunities law aims to create a 'level playing field' so that people are employed, paid, trained and promoted only because of their skills, abilities and how they do their job.
Discrimination happens when an employer treats one employee less favourably than others. It could mean a female employee being paid less than a male colleague for doing the same job, or a minority ethnic employee being refused the training opportunities offered to white colleagues.
You can’t be discriminated against because of your:
- marriage or civil partnership
- gender reassignment
- pregnancy and maternity leave
- sexual orientation
- ethnic background
- religion or belief
Your employer also can’t dismiss you or treat you less favourably than other workers because you work part-time or are on a fixed-term contract.
Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because of your sex.
Sex discrimination law covers almost all workers (men and women) and all types of organisations in the UK. It covers:
- employment terms and conditions
- pay and benefits
- promotion and transfer opportunities
Where men and women, working for the same employer, are doing one of the following they are entitled to the same terms in their employment contract:
the same or similar work (like work)
- the same or similar work (like work)
- work of equal value
There may be exceptions where there is a genuine material factor which explains the difference.
Pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts are unenforceable if you are trying to find out if any difference in pay is connected with a 'protected characteristic', for example sex.
Age discrimination at work is unlawful in almost all types of employment. All employees and workers of any age are protected from age discrimination including partners of firms, contract workers and anyone in vocational training.
All aspects of your employment (or prospective employment) are protected from age discrimination, including your:
- employment terms and conditions
- promotions and transfers
SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION
You are protected against sexual orientation discrimination if:
- you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual
- people think you are gay, lesbian or heterosexual when you are not
- you have gay friends or visit gay clubs
Protection against discrimination starts when you apply for a job and continues through your employment. Discrimination protection covers:
- terms and conditions of employment (including benefits such as pensions)
- employment status (e.g. if you are a worker or an employee)
- promotion and transfer opportunities
If you are a same-sex couple in a civil partnership you are entitled to the same benefits as a married person (for example, survivors’ benefits under a company pension scheme) if the benefits have been in place since 5 December 2005 (when the Civil Partnership Act came into force).
If your employer gives benefits to opposite sex, unmarried partners of its employees (e.g. the employee's opposite sex partner is able to drive the company car), refusing the same benefits to same-sex partners could be discrimination.
The 1976 Race Relations Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on racial grounds. Race includes:
- ethnic or national origins
Under the Act, it doesn't matter if the discrimination is done on purpose or not. What counts is whether (as a result of an employer's actions) you are treated unfavourably because of your race.
The Race Relations Act protects all racial groups, regardless of their race, colour, nationality, or national or ethnic origins.
KINDS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
The laws against racial discrimination at work cover every part of employment. This includes recruitment, terms and conditions, pay and benefits, status, training, promotion and transfer opportunities, right through to redundancy and dismissal.
The law allows a job to be restricted to people of a particular racial or ethnic group where there is a 'genuine occupational requirement'. An example is where a black actor is needed for a film or television programme.
There are four main kinds of discrimination:
- direct discrimination - deliberate discrimination (e.g. where a particular job is only open to people of a specific racial group)
- indirect discrimination - working practices, provisions or criteria that disadvantage members of any group (e.g. introducing a dress code without good reason, which might discriminate against some ethnic groups)
- harassment - participating in, allowing or encouraging behaviour that offends someone or creates a hostile atmosphere (e.g. making racist jokes at work)
victimisation - treating someone less favourably because they have complained or been involved in a complaint about racial discrimination (e.g. taking disciplinary action against someone for complaining about discrimination against themselves or another person)
Employers who don't stop discrimination, harassment and bullying by their employees may be breaking the law.
In rare circumstances there are some jobs that require you to be of a particular racial group. This is known as genuine occupational requirement.
WHAT IS POSITIVE ACTION?
Positive action is where an employer provides support or encouragement to a particular racial group. It is only allowed where a specific racial group is, or has been in the previous 12 months, badly under-represented among those doing particular work, either:
- within an employer's own workforce
The employer is allowed to provide special training to members of the racial group. They can also encourage members of the racial group to apply to do the work or fill the posts (for example, by saying that applications from them will be particularly welcome).
This does not mean that employers can discriminate in favour of the members of the group when it comes to choosing people to do the work or fill the posts, that is unlawful discrimination.
Positive action is not the same as 'positive discrimination', which is where members of a particular racial group are treated more favourably just because they come from that racial group. Positive discrimination is unlawful.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people. The disability parts of the act cover:
- application forms
- interview arrangements
- aptitude or proficiency tests
- job offers
- terms of employment including pay
- promotion, transfer and training opportunities
- work-related benefits such as access to recreation or refreshment facilities
- dismissal or redundancy
- discipline and grievances
An employer must also make reasonable changes to applications, interviews and work so that you are not disadvantaged. These are known as ‘reasonable adjustments’.
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer must not:
- treat a disabled person less favourably because the person has a disability - this is known as 'direct discrimination'
- indirectly discriminate against a disabled person, unless there is a fair and balanced reason for this
- directly discriminate against, or harass a person because they are associated with a disabled person
- directly discriminate against or harass a person who is wrongly thought to be disabled
- victimise anyone
Victimisation might arise because the person has taken, or is believed likely to take action under the act. For example, making a complaint or taking a case to a tribunal or court. Or it might be because they have helped somebody to make a complaint or to take other action.
Your employer must not treat a disabled person less favourably because of something connected with the person’s disability. Unless there is a fair and balanced reason. For this form of discrimination the employer must know or should reasonably have been expected to know that the person is disabled.
These rights do not just apply to employment. The Equality Act covers other forms of work like partnerships, contract work, or holding an office like a director of a business.
REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS IN THE WORKPLACE
Under the Equality Act 2010 an employer has a duty to make reasonable changes for disabled applicants and employees. These are know as 'reasonable adjustments'. Adjustments should be made to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.
The need to make reasonable adjustments can apply to the working arrangements or any physical aspects of the workplace. For example, adjusting your working hours or providing you with an adapted piece of equipment to help you to do the job. Physical adjustments might include replacing steps with a ramp.
Also, if it is reasonable, the employer needs to provide an extra aid to ensure the disabled worker is not disadvantaged. This might mean providing special or adapted equipment to do the job.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the legal information contained on “YouandYourRights” is accurate, it does not constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. Neither the Proprietor nor Dean Dunham can assume responsibility and do not accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.