Discrimination law can become quite complicated. You should be able to go to work without being subjected to any form of unlawful Discrimination, Bullying or Harassment. You do not have to be an employee, as casual and agency workers are protected; even self employed individuals may be able to claim if they suffer unlawful discrimination.
The relevant legislation is called the Equality Act. This was introduced in 2010 and replaced all the previous separate laws covering discrimination
Compensation for Discrimination has no upper limit and there are no service requirements – you are protected from your first day at work – unlike unfair dismissal which needs a period of continuous service. You can be compensated for injury to your feelings, as well as future loss of earning – not just any specific losses.
You also enjoy protection if you are a job applicant. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the recruitment process you can still make a complaint to tribunal. This includes the short listing stage – deciding who gets an interview. So if you do not even get to the interview stage and you think this is because of :
- your age
- your sex, which includes being pregnant or having changed gender
- your marital status
- your race, colour, ethnic origin or nationality
- your religion or a genuine belief
- your sexual orientation
- any disability
… you can make a complaint. Best advice is to contact the employer to ask why you have been turned down. Listen to what the employer says, if they respond that is – as there is no legal requirement for the Employer to tell you why you have been unsuccessful.
All of this applies if this is an internal piece of recruitment at your current employment as well as covering applications from outside the business .
The Equality Act also covers you if you suffer discrimination because of an Association with one of the above protected characteristics.
Examples would be: if you are disciplined or dismissed for taking time off to look after a disabled partner or child; or you are harassed at work over the race/colour of your partner.
You even enjoy protection as an ex-employee!
If you feel you have suffered discrimination from your ex-employer, you can still claim discrimination. So if you are refused a reference for example, or the reference makes some discriminatory remarks, you may still be able to claim.
You must submit a claim to a Tribunal within 3 months of the incident you are complaining of. You can make a late application and Tribunals will consider your late application. If you wish to make a late application do Contact our Advice Line or a solicitor first to stand a better chance of having it accepted.
You enjoy extra protection if you are victimised at work as a result of making a formal complaint of discrimination. So for example, if you are overlooked for promotion, or singled out by your boss, and this follows a complaint you made, this is often called “victimisation”. In some specific situations you may even be able to claim discrimination after your employment has ended. Perhaps your employer refuses to give you a reference, yet they normally do, and you think this is because of an earlier complaint you made or that you took them to Tribunal.
Your Employer is responsible for any discrimination that you suffer in the course of your employment. Even if the discrimination or harassment comes from someone from outside your organisation. This may be a customer, client, even a member of the public if your job involves dealing with them.
You are also protected if you suffer harassment at a company organised social event, like a Christmas Party, provided it is connected with your employment.
It is your Employers duty to take all reasonable steps to protect you. Start by telling your Employer of the problem. If you feel that your Employer is not taking you seriously, put your complaint in writing or use the grievance procedure. If you do not get protection, you have a number of options. You can make a complaint of discrimination whilst still working with your Employer. If the situation is affecting your health, see your GP and perhaps take a period of sickness absence whilst the matter is under investigation by your Employer. If you are in a Trade Union, talk to your Union Rep or a Full time officer who will know how to help. Don’t suffer in silence!
You can eventually resign, leave and then claim constructive dismissal. This is a serious move, and pretty much a last resort to take though as you lose your employment. Before taking this step, Contact our Advice Line or speak with a legal advisor.