Claims for discrimination in the workplace can arise when employees, who are considered to have a ‘protected characteristic’, suffer less favourable treatment in the workplace. Protected characteristics include: age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, gender, racial group, religion or belief, political opinion and sexual orientation.
Direct discrimination is when an employee is treated less favourably based on their protected characteristic, for example, passing up a female for a job promotion simply because she is female.
Indirect discrimination may occur when an employer puts in place a policy, practice or criteria that applies to all workers but has the consequence of putting certain individuals, who hold a protected characteristic, at a disadvantage. For example, operating a policy that rewards good attendance without making exceptions within it to discount pregnancy related absences.
There are also specific obligations in relation to disabled workers, in order to facilitate an individual’s medical needs, known as providing reasonable adjustments. A failure to provide reasonable adjustments can also be held to be discriminatory treatment. For example, failing to provide a wheelchair accessible desk for a disabled employee who needs to use a wheelchair in the office due to their disability.
If your employees have raised concerns about discriminatory treatment, we can assist you in how to approach this.
Claims for discrimination can result in substantial awards being made to the employee in excess of £40,000 as well as negative publicity and significant legal expense for your business so it is important to get good legal advice on these matters at an early opportunity.