Understanding Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination in the workplace can take different forms and intensities ranging from insulting language to unfair treatment and sexual harassment, to mention only a few. It’s employer’s duty to prevent discrimination in the workplace and each time they prevent to do so, discriminatory behaviour takes its toll not only on the employee who is being discriminated but on the entire company by creating uneasiness, discomfort and tension among the employees. In addition, the employer could be liable for a lawsuit for discrimination in the workplace. For that reason it is of utmost importance to take the necessary steps to prevent employment discrimination from occurring in the first place. Also, it is extremely important to immediately take action if being reported disadvantageous treatment by an employee.
In order to prevent discrimination in the workplace and recognise discriminatory treatment if encountering it,it is first necessary to understand what discrimination in the workplace is and what forms it can take.
Definition of Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination or discrimination in the workplace is defined as unfair, unequal and unfavourable treatment of an individual due to their personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, etc. Disadvantageous treatment can be both intentional and unintentional but no matter if deliberate or not, any form of discrimination is unlawful.
Forms of Discrimination in the Workplace
As mentioned earlier, discrimination in the workplace can take many different forms. The UK Government recognises the following forms:
- Direct discrimination. Employment discrimination is said to be direct when an individual is directly put in a disadvantageous position, e.g. not being hired, denied promotion, dismissed, etc. due to their personal characteristics
- Indirect discrimination. Far more common than direct discrimination, indirect discriminatory treatment involves creating rules, conditions, demands or other type of arrangements that put individuals or a group of people at a disadvantage
- Harassment. This form of discrimination involves offensive, disturbing, intimidating and in some cases even violent behaviour towards an individual or group of people due to their personal characteristics
- Victimisation. When an employee is treated unfairly or unequally because they have reported discrimination, they are said to be victimised.
Protected Characteristics that are Unlawful to Discriminate Against
Under the Equality Act 2010 which provides protection against discrimination in the workplace, it is unlawful to discriminate against individuals or groups of people with the following protected characteristics:
- sexual orientation
- marriage/civil partnership
- pregnancy or maternity
- race or ethnicity
- religion or belief
- association with someone with protected characteristics