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Discrimination at work: understanding your rights in the workplace

We are all unique. Our differences can often help us to strengthen relationships and achieve greater things together. However, it is sadly not always the case that our differences are seen as strengths. Discrimination at work is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with appropriately.

Everybody has fundamental rights in the workplace, regardless of who they are and if you feel that your rights are not being respected, it is important to seek further guidance in dealing with the problem.

Understanding what your rights are and how discrimination at work is defined by the law can help you to deal with and prevent any experiences of discrimination. Here, we have created a step-by-step guide to help you address any problem you might be experiencing with discrimination at work.

1. Define discrimination at work

The first thing you need to do is confirm that what you have experienced/are experiencing is legally defined as discrimination in the workplace.

All employers must follow the law on preventing discrimination at work.

At work, you have the same rights as everybody else to:

  • Dismissal (being fired)
  • Employment terms and conditions (you should have these in a contract)
  • Pay and benefits
  • Promotion and transfer opportunities
  • Training and development
  • Recruitment
  • Redundancy

If you feel that you are being treated differently or unfairly at work in a way that affects your rights because of who you are, there is a chance that this could be discrimination at work. In legal terms, there is a list of ‘protected characteristics’ that it is against the law to discriminate against. These ‘protected characteristics’ are:

  • Age
  • Gender reassignment
  • Being married or in a civil partnership
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Disability
  • Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

If you are treated unfairly because of any one of these characteristics then you are legally protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. If the problem is discrimination at work, you can complain to your employer or even take legal action.

Citizens Advice have a clear guide on how to check if your problem at work is discrimination.

2. Speak to the employer

Whenever possible, keep a written record of the discrimination you are experiencing. This will be helpful if you are required to back up your claims.

It is advised that you first attempt to address the problem informally by talking to someone else at the organisation, or even the perpetrator themself if you feel like you can. Suggesting possible ways to solve the problem can often help too.

If this does not work, it’s time to speak to someone higher up. In official terms, this means that you raise a ‘grievance’ with your employer. It might be possible to get legal aid to help cover some of the costs

3. Get external support

There are a number of support services you can use that will advise you on your next steps. The main ones recommended by the GOV.uk website are:

If the issue cannot be resolved informally at work, the next step is to make a claim to an employment tribunal. The tribunal is independent from the government and you will be required to make a claim against your perpetrator. The tribunal will then decide whether or not you have been discriminated against at work.

If you win the case, the tribunal will order the respondent (the person/organisation you are claiming against) to do a number of things, including giving you your job back and improving your working conditions and may order them to pay you compensation. If you lose, you can ask the tribunal to reconsider the decision within the first 14 days of receiving it with good reasons. You can also appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

4. Do your research

Discrimination at work is a serious issue that needs addressing and the process of this can be long and difficult. This article is just a starting point to familiarising yourself with your rights surround discrimination at work and the process of raising a concern. If you feel that you are or have been discriminated against, these links can help you to understand discrimination at work in more detail and access expert guidance and support in dealing with it:

Read more here

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