The Equality Act offers employees some protection against discrimination before, during or after employment. Sadly, discrimination can still occur and it can be particularly distressing for staff to be discriminated against when they have a protected characteristic.
In the employment law field, discrimination claims can be brought by employees. They can also be brought by applicants for jobs and by workers who normally enjoy lower protection by virtue of their status. Traditionally equality laws were found under separate Acts such as the Disability Discrimination Act. In October 2010 the law was harmonised to bring all discrimination claims under one Act. The law is now found in the Equality Act 2010.
Under the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics:
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Gender reassignment
Discrimination or harassment on any of these grounds is prohibited. This can apply to applicants, those in the role and sometimes those that have left. Discrimination can be direct e.g. not hiring employees who are women, or indirect which means there is a provision criterion or practice that applies to all on the face of it but less of one group can comply than others e.g. the requirement to work full time may be indirectly discriminatory against women.
Harassment is a course of conduct related to one of the protected characteristics which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidatory, hostile or degrading environment for the victim.
Those who have a disability also have the right to request reasonable adjustments to allow them to compete on an even playing field. If an employee is victimised for having raised a grievance or for making reference to the Equality Act this would give them an additional claim of victimisation.
If you feel that any of these matters apply to you, you should seek advice at an early stage. You can bring a discrimination claim whilst you are still in employment so do not have to leave to bring a claim. You could also use the grievance process as a way of resolving the matter.
As with most employment claims you have three months, from the last act complained of as discriminatory, to refer the matter to ACAS so time is of the essence. For further advice contact me.