The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of the following “protected characteristics”:
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status
- Religion or belief
Discrimination may take any of the following forms:
Direct discrimination – where someone is treated less favourably on grounds of the protected characteristic (e.g. refusing to employ someone because they are black.)
Indirect discrimination – where an employer implements a rule or procedure that applies to everyone but adversely affects people with a particular protected characteristic and cannot be justified (e.g. a requirement to wear a particular kind of headgear where a Sikh wearing a turban cannot comply with this requirement and it is not necessary.)
Victimisation – where an employer treats someone differently because they have made or assisted in making a complaint about discrimination. (e.g. disciplining someone because they raised a grievance about a manager sexually harassing them.)
Failure to Make Reasonable Adjustments – this only applies to disability discrimination. If something about work puts disabled people at a disadvantage then the employer must take all reasonable steps to remove that disadvantage (for example someone with dyslexia may need to be allowed longer time to complete a task involving reading.)
Harassment– where because of a protected characteristic an employer behaves in such a manner (or allows others to do so) so as to violates someone’s dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive workplace.
You can be liable for the discriminatory acts of your employees even if they were done without your knowledge.
The legislation applies to both employees and job applicants and the damages are potentially unlimited. If the Claimant proves fact from which discrimination could be found unless there is a good explanation to the contrary, the burden is for you to prove you are innocent!
Rees Page can help you put in place robust procedures to limit the risks of a Claim arising. We can advise if you are concerned that you could be facing a problem and if a Claim is made we can represent you at the Employment Tribunal.