The Equality Act 2010 gives employees and workers the right to bring claims against their employer for discrimination in the workplace on the basis of a protected characteristic.
The protected characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The individual claims for discrimination are:
- Direct Discrimination – less favourable treatment because of the protected characteristic.
- Indirect Discrimination – where a policy, criterion or practice of the employer places and individual employee at a particular disadvantage, and that disadvantage is also suffered by those employees who share the protected characteristic of the individual complainant but not the wider workforce, and cannot be objectively justified.
- Harassment – unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating the individual’s dignity or of creating a hostile, degrading, humiliating environment.
- Victimisation – detrimental treatment of the employee or worker for them having done a protected act or the employer believing they may do a protected act. A protected act is when an employee or worker makes a complaint of discrimination, to either the employer or a Tribunal / Court.
- There are two discrimination claims that relate only to the protected characteristic of disability: failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from disability.
Employers should also be aware that the definition of disability status for employees and workers is found in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 and provides that a person is disabled if they experience substantial, long term, adverse effects on their ability to carry out their day-to-day activities due to a physical or mental condition.
This is primarily a functional assessment of the effects of any health condition and an employer should consider carefully whether it considers any individual employee or worker may satisfy such a definition – because if the employee is disabled by virtue of the section 6 definition in the Equality Act 2010, there will be additional legal obligations placed on the employer in those circumstances to make adjustments to their policies and procedures, environment and workspaces, and to provide an auxiliary aid, if that is reasonable in the circumstances.
This area of law is very complex and claims for discrimination can result in the lengthiest hearings in the Tribunal. It follows that any claim for discrimination against an employer should always be taken seriously and legal advice sought as soon as possible.
At Hanne & Co, our Employment Law team can provide assistance and advice if a discrimination claim is asserted or lodged in the Tribunal against the employer. We can provide representation for the employer in the Tribunal and support to negotiate an agreed outcome within the form of a settlement agreement if appropriate.