What is workplace discrimination?
Discrimination can take place in all areas at work, including: dismissal, employment terms and conditions, pay and benefits, promotion and transfer opportunities, training, recruitment, and redundancy.
What behaviour constitutes discrimination in the workplace?
It’s against the law to mistreat someone or treat them less favourably, due to a characteristic such as gender, age, or race. Discrimination can include; not hiring someone, selecting a particular person for redundancy, paying someone less than another worker without good reason.
What are the usual types of discrimination in the work place?
Discrimination can be broad, ranging in circumstances and environments. Discrimination can come in one of the following forms:
- Direct discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others
- Indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage. Often an employer can indirectly discriminate against someone, by offering conditions that disadvantage one group of people more than another
- Harassment – unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating a humiliating, intimidating, humiliating, offensive or hostile environment
- Victimisation – treating someone unfairly after complaining about discrimination or harassment
Examples of discrimination in the work place
- introducing measures that discriminate workers, for example a benefit for married employees that’s not available for civil partnerships
- paying men and women different amounts, including benefits, eg company cars, when doing work of equal value
- selecting someone for redundancy because they have a protected characteristic
- failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled worker
- firing someone for making an allegation of discrimination
- firing someone because they’re a union member
- unfairly rejecting a request for flexible working for a parent
- favouring family member employees over other employees
I’ve been discriminated against, what should I do?
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against and you cannot resolve the issue informally, you can complain directly to the organisation, use mediation or dispute resolution, or you can make a claim in a court or tribunal.
In rare circumstances, you may be able to claim legal aid to help cover legal costs if you’ve been discriminated against, if you’re eligible.
The Equality Advisory Support Service, Acas, and Citizens Advice are all available to help and give support. A Trade union representative may also be able to offer advice.
I’m disabled, what reasonable adjustments are available to me?
Employers must make reasonable adjustments to help any disabled employees with:
- application forms; providing in Braille, audio formats
- aptitude tests; giving extra time to complete tests
- dismissal or redundancy
- discipline and grievances
- interview arrangements; wheelchair access, communicator support
- the workplace must have the right facilities and equipment for disabled workers
- promotion, transfer and training opportunities
- terms of employment, including pay
- work-related benefits like access to recreation or refreshment facilities
What is a positive action?
You can voluntarily help people with a protected characteristic. This is called Action against discrimination; positive action. Taking positive action is legal if people with a protected characteristic are at a disadvantage, have particular needs or are under-represented in an activity or workplace.
What rights do I have?
You’re legally protected from discrimination against protected characteristics by the Equality Act 2010.
What are protected characteristics?
Protected characteristics are the different types of discrimination people face most commonly:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- married couples or civil partnerships
- pregnancy or maternity leave
- race; nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief/philosophies
- sex and gender
- sexual orientation
Protected characteristics are protected in below environments:
- in the work place
- in education
- as a consumer
- public services
- when buying or renting property
- as a member or guest of a private club or association
You’re also protected from discrimination when:
- you’re associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, e.g. a family member
- you’ve complained about discrimination or supported a claim
Do I have to accept a settlement agreement?
No, but If you turn down the offer, you might not get a better one. If you feel you’ve been treated badly, you could still bring a claim after turning down a settlement, but you might not be awarded as much money as you were offered initially.
How long do I have before I have to accept?
Employees need a minimum of 10 days to decide whether they are going to accept a settlement agreement.
Do I have to pay the legal fees?
No, usually your employer will make a contribution toward the legal fees, the contribution will cover an initial consultation with a solicitor and all invoices are sent to the employer directly. If you decide not to accept the settlement agreement, you may be liable to pay some fees.
Do I have to pay tax on the settlement agreement?
Some payments are made tax-free. However, some will types of payment will attract tax. If the tax notice is complicated, you’ll need to seek advice from a legal professional. It’s common for employers to ask for a tax indemnity as part of the settlement agreement- meaning if MHRC decide that tax is due, you will be liable for it.
Do I need to have parts of the agreement explained to me; does it matter if I do not understand the jargon?
It’s essential that you understand everything in the agreement, and if there is anything you aren’t able to comply with, or anything you have already breached. It’s essential you take legal advice to have the terms and effects of entering into the agreement explained.
What does ‘without prejudice’ mean on the agreement?
This means that the agreement is off the record, it can’t be show to a court as evidence. This principle means that the settlement discussion shouldn’t be used against either party if any negotiations fail.
Yunus Lunat – Head of Employment Law
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