In this 7-part series of blog posts, we explore the basics of employment law to help offer advice to managers and business owners. 

Here is part 4: Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 named 9 Protected Characteristics that it is unlawful to discriminate against. These are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnerships
  • pregnancy and maternity

Discrimination can be Direct or Indirect

Direct Discrimination

Is where a person has been treated differently and/or worse because of a Protected Characteristic. So for example, someone is turned down for a job because she is pregnant, someone is made to retire at 65 when they do not wish to, someone is passed over for promotion because they have started gender reassignment. Direct Discrimination is the most obvious kind and is perhaps less common because people are more aware of the potential pitfalls.

It can be lawful to discriminate if the employer can demonstrate it is doing so to achieve a legitimate business aim. So it maybe lawful to retire people at 65 if the employer can demonstrate it is doing so to achieve a legitimate business aim of pro-actively changing the age profile of the workforce or to recruit the ethnic origin to match a particular restaurant eg Chinese.

Indirect Discrimination

Is much harder to spot. Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. The Equality Act says it puts them at a particular disadvantage.

A practice, policy or rule can be formal or informal. It can be a one-off decision or a decision to do something in the future. It includes things like arrangements, criteria, conditions, qualifications or provisions.

What’s important is that it applies to everyone in the same way, that it’s neutral. If something only applies to some people who all have the same protected characteristic, it would be direct discrimination.

An example is treating part-time workers differently than full time. A majority of part-time workers are women so if part time workers are treated differently, it could be indirect sex discrimination. Although more difficult to spot, it carries the same weight in law as Direct Discrimination.

Find out more about discrimination claims and discuss your case with our Head of Employment Law, Navya Shekhar.

Call 01423 788 538 to speak to a Truth Legal solicitor today.

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Catherine Reynolds
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