What is discrimination in the workplace?Workplace discrimination occurs when you’re treated unfairly by your employer due to your ‘protected characteristics’ as defined by the Equalities Act 2010.
Protected characteristics include:
- Marriage and civil partnerships
- Pregnancy and maternity
So, if you’ve suffered under a manager who ignores your years of experience in favour of promoting recent graduates because ‘they work longer hours for less money’, or faced callous and bullying remarks due to your ethnicity, you could be able to make a discrimination claim.
You’ll typically come across four different types of discrimination:
- Direct discrimination is when an employer treats you unfairly because of your protected characteristics.
- Indirect discrimination sees employers introduce unjustified arrangements or rules that unfairly impact those with a protected characteristic.
- Harassment includes bullying and unwanted sexual advances, creating an offensive working environment or violating your dignity.
- Victimisation is when an employee is unfairly treated because of actions the company doesn’t like, such as complaining about discriminatory behaviour.
Most workers are protected – although you’ll find some exceptions, such as volunteers, the self-employed, or certain public servants. If you’re unsure, it’s worth chatting to an employment solicitor.
What steps should you take when discriminated against at work?
Make a record
Talk to senior staff
Speak to an employment solicitor
How do you make a discrimination claim at an employment tribunal?If your employer fails to act over discrimination at work, it’s likely you’ll need to take the matter to court or an employment tribunal. Your solicitor will be able to advise on the exact process and documents you’ll need.
It's necessary to first inform ACAS of your intention to take the case to a tribunal. You only have three months to make your claim, so be quick.
You’ll initially be offered ‘early conciliation’. This is a type of mediation, and you’ll be expected to attend if you and your employer haven’t already tried what’s known as ‘alternative dispute resolution’.
At the end of this process, should you and your employer reach a solution, you’ll get a legally binding certificate outlining the agreement. If early conciliation fails, you’ll receive a form that lets you take your employer to a tribunal.
What outcomes can you expect from a tribunal?Outcomes depend on the type of claim you’re making. In most cases, if the business loses the case, they must either:
- Reinstate you in your previous job
- Re-engagement you in a new or similar role on similar terms
- Compensate you financially, including any money owed for work
Just before your tribunal starts (or sometimes, if the tribunal allows, after you’ve won), you may hear from a representative for your employer in an attempt to settle the case. If no settlement is possible, you can return to the tribunal to ask for a compensation award.
Figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggest around 58% of tribunal cases are settled before a hearing – with discrimination cases most likely to be withdrawn or settled either privately or through ACAS.
If you lose your claim, you’re able to appeal the decision through the Employment Appeal Tribunal within 42 days. A solicitor will also help you with your appeal.
How will employment solicitors help you?Employment solicitors can offer advice on your current situation and how best to proceed.
It might be that your case isn’t covered by the Equalities Act 2010. Or you want to use a representative as a go-between when trying to resolve the problem with your employer. They can also negotiate an end to your contract plus any compensation due, or an amicable return to work.
Your solicitor will explain how the tribunal process and how to prepare for legal action. Making a discrimination claim is complicated and time-consuming. Legal wranglings can last weeks (and, in certain cases, years), so it’s best to have representation that helps your case succeed.
Use The Law Superstore quick quote form to find an employment solicitor who can help guide you through your workplace discrimination claim without breaking the bank.