Discrimination in the workplace occurs when certain prejudices happen in the workplace that centres around the nine protected characteristics.
The Equality Act 2020 outlines nine characteristics a person may have that are protected by law if you were to experience discrimination.
The nine characteristics of workplace discrimination
A person who belongs to a specific age group, e.g. 18-25, 30-40, 65+
A man or woman
This refers to a group of people determined by their ethnicity
4. Religion or Belief
Religion refers to any religion or lack thereof. Belief refers to any philosophical or religious beliefs or lack thereof
5. Sexual orientation
This relates to people in the LGBTQIA+ community
6. Gender reassignment
Refers to people who identify as transgender or the opposite to their birth gender
A person would be considered disabled if they have a diagnosed mental or physical impairment
8. Marriage and civil partnership
Marriage is a union of an opposite-sex couple or same-sex couple. Same-sex couples can also become civil partners
9. Pregnancy and maternity
Refers to maternity leave in the context of employment
Discrimination in the workplace can take place in many forms. For example, direct harassment may be taking place at work by a colleague or a manager, not allowing an employee time off work for gender reassignment surgery, paying employees who are equally qualified different salaries.
Experiencing workplace discrimination can make you feel bullied, isolated, and it can be very anxiety-inducing. It is essential to look after your mental health while going through this process as it can cause a lot of stress.
It would be best if you tried to keep notes on what you have experienced as this will help your case with both your employer or in an employment tribunal.
How should you deal with workplace discrimination?
First, you should approach a manager at work and raise an informal complaint. It is not essential; however, it is good to do so before deciding to go to the employment tribunal.
Thus, it gives the employer a chance to take accountability for this before taking your complaint further if it is decided that no further action is needed or the discrimination continues.
If nothing comes of the informal complaint, you should then raise a grievance with your employer using the organisation’s grievance procedure.
If your decision is then to claim to the Employment Tribunal, your employer must be made aware of the claim within three months of the discrimination taking place.
How to make an informal complaint to your employer?
Making an informal complaint means seeking out someone to speak to who has the power to be able to improve the situation, such as a manager.
If it is your manager whom you feel is acting inappropriately, you should take this to someone higher up in your organisation.
Although the meeting will be informal, it is essential to try to have as much information on the topic as you can remember. It would be beneficial if you could make notes before your meeting. It also helps if you can round up evidence if you have any written proof of the discrimination that has taken place.
When you have the meeting with your employer, you should explain what happened, how the other person’s actions are making you feel, and tell your employer how you would like them to deal with this.
You should expect to wait while your employer responds as they will need to evaluate all of the information you have given them. They may also need to speak to other employees to see if they have witnessed anything.
What your employer should do if they find there has been unlawful discrimination?
The following actions of the employer will depend on any underlying circumstances and how your employer has dealt with similar cases.
Your employer may decide that the discriminatory person should go on training; it will most likely be Equality training.
Your employer may choose to proceed with disciplinary action towards the individuals found to be engaging with discrimination.
So, what happens if your employer does not find that there has been any unlawful discrimination?
Your employer may call for an ADR or try to resolve things between you and the person/people in question themselves. Everyone must be still able to work together effectively with no more issues.
However, if you have concerns with the way your employer investigated the situation, their final decision, or if you were treated poorly still after the investigated, you are within your right to take this to the Employment Tribunal.
What happens if you decide to take a claim to Employment Tribunal?
To start with, you must put a claim in no later than three months from when you believe the discrimination was happening. Before you make a claim, you must notify ACAS that you intend to do so.
ACAS will offer early conciliation to try and sort things between you and your employer first. If this does not achieve anything, you will be able to start your claim with the Employment Tribunal. You will receive a certificate from ACAS confirming that early conciliation did not work.
So you have made a claim to be heard at an Employment Tribunal, what happens next?
The respondent must reply to your claim in writing within 28 days of receiving your claim form. The respondent will then explain their version of events. Once a response has been received by the respondent, the tribunal will decide whether there should be a full hearing to discuss your case.
If the respondent does not reply, the tribunal may determine the outcome of your case without you having to attend the hearing.
You may be requested to attend an initial hearing (“preliminary hearing”). This will be to discuss if part or all of your claim should go to a full hearing, the date and time of your hearing and how long the full hearing should take.
You can ask the respondent for documents that will assist you with your case, and they can request documents from you.
The sort of documents that are typically used are, contracts of employment, payslips, details of pension schemes, relevant notes from meetings attended.
The tribunal will typically issue a timetable of when you should both exchange documents. The tribunal will send you a letter outlining how many copies of the documents needed to bring with you to the hearing.
You can bring witnesses to the hearing if they can give evidence relevant to your case. If you want a witness to attend and they do not want to, the tribunal can order them to attend. You should apply in writing to the tribunal office dealing with your case and give the tribunal the following information:
The tribunal will need the name and address of the witness.
Details around what the witness may be able to say and how it will assist your case if there is a reason the witness has refused to attend the hearing.
You are at the tribunal, what happens now?
Cases usually are dealt with at your local employment tribunal office.
You must take the documents that are supporting your claim. You can bring a work colleague or someone else with you if you want. You are unable to claim expenses for attending the hearing.
When you get to the tribunal, you will present your case to the tribunal; you can have a lawyer, friend or family member to represent you. The respondent will argue their case against you. You will typically give evidence first unless your claim is regarding unfair dismissal.
You are also able to call witnesses to give evidence. You will usually be asked questions by the judge, the respondent and in some cases, two other tribunal members.
When the tribunal has reached a final decision, you will receive a letter in the post explaining why you’ve either won your case or lost.
You won your case. What should you do?
If you do win your case, the tribunal can order the respondent to do certain things depending on the situation.
- Have them pay you compensation.
- Have them pay you any witness expenses.
- Improving your work conditions.
- If you were dismissed unfairly, offering you your job back.
The amount of compensation can vary depending on the type of case.
- There are limits in certain types of cases.
- You’ve lost a certain amount of money due to respondent’s actions.
- Your age at the time and length of service with that organisation can affect how much compensation you are due also.
If the respondent does not pay, you should first contact them to find out why. If they still do not pay you after this, you can ask to have them fined and named online by the government. You can also request a court to enforce payment.
However, if the respondent has appealed, you cannot do this. The respondent has 42 days to appeal.
You lost your case. What should you do?
You can ask the tribunal to reevaluate their decision. You must write to the tribunal office within 14 days of receiving your case outcome and why you’d like it to be reconsidered. You also need to give good reasons.
Did the tribunal make a mistake when it came to its decision? Were you not told about the hearing, or were not in attendance at the hearing? Is there new evidence?
You should then send your letter to the tribunal office that dealt with your case.
Who can support you with a discrimination case?
In the first instance, if you feel you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, it would be beneficial to seek some free employment advice. ACAS and Citizen’s Advice Bureau provide a helpful, free advice service. You could also find a free consultation with an employment lawyer who can advise you on how to take your case further.
If you’re not sure if what you are experiencing is discrimination, you shouldn’t suffer in silence. You should still speak up about what you’re experiencing because even if it were not discrimination by law, you might still be experiencing workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying can make wanting to go to work every day really difficult and can eventually begin to take a toll on your mental health. If you do need further advice and support, then contact an employment solicitor now.
Related article: Unfair Dismissal: How much compensation can you get?
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