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The Equality Act 2010 works to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace.

The law protects against many discriminatory acts, making it illegal for workers to suffer from prejudice based on personal attributes such as age, race, sex and disability. These are also known as protected characteristics.

Breaches of the Equality Act can be found in various workplaces, from pay discrimination to unfair dismissal. However, understanding how to recognise workplace discrimination can be confusing. In this blog, we will be taking a comprehensive look at the UK employment law and how it can affect employers and employees.

What Is Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination is the act of treating a co-worker less favourably than others. There are multiple ways of putting someone at a disadvantage, some common examples range from excluding someone from an opportunity or causing emotional distress.

Discrimination can be a complex subject and is not always easy to identify. By law, all employers must ensure that they do not discriminate unfairly and should take all steps to protect employees against prejudice. Although employers are held responsible for any acts of discrimination in the workplace, the individual who discriminates is wholly responsible for their actions and should be held accountable.

There are four main types of discrimination outlined in the Equality Act, including direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

Direct Discrimination

Treating someone less favourably or putting them at a disadvantage because of their protected characteristics is known as direct discrimination, It is possible to be discriminated against by someone who shares the same protected characteristics as you, whether that be age, sex, religion or belief.

For example, if an employee is not offered a job or promotion due to their protected characteristics, this would be a form of direct discrimination.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination can be much less obvious than direct discrimination, and may not always be intentional. Indirect discrimination occurs when a workplace practice, policy or rule is the same for every employee but directly affects an individual or group because of their protected characteristics.

Harassment and Victimisation

In the Equality Act 2010, there are three types of harassment:

  • harassment related to a protected characteristic
  • sexual harassment
  • less favourable treatment as a result of the harassment

For harassment to meet the requirements set out in the act, it must have either violated someone's dignity or created an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the employee.

This year, the proposed Worker Protection Bill is working through the House of Lords to create new legal liabilities for employers , including protecting employees from harassment under the Equality Act 2010.

Victimisation, on the other hand, occurs when someone is treated less favourably due to their involvement with a discrimination or harassment complaint. From being labelled a troublemaker to feeling left out of the workplace environment, the law describes victimisation as ‘suffering a detriment’ for taking action.

Contact Eatons today – Get expert advice from our employment law solicitors!

At Eatons, our expert solicitors are proud to provide practical advice and assistance on employment rights in the workplace throughout Yorkshire, including discrimination, harassment and victimisation. From answering a simple query to representing you at an Employment Tribunal, our team will be happy to help.