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There is no qualifying period for discrimination claims (the 2 year rule doesn't apply). Workers are protected from Direct Discrimination (less favourable treatment, Harassment (subjecting a worker to a hostile environment connected with eg: race or sex), and Victimisation (picking on a worker for raising rights).

Discrimination laws apply to: race, sex, sexual orientation, age, gender reassignment, religious/philosophical belief, disability and pregnancy

(‘Protected Characteristics’).

To bring a discrimination claim you need to present facts from which inferences of discrimination might be made. It's very helpful if you can prepare a chronology of the key events. Most claims must be brought within 3 months but the history (eg: examples of historic discriminatory conduct can help). We also need evidence in date order and details of any information your employer may hold. 

Discrimination rights relate to 'workers' in the broader sense such as contractors or temps and not just employees. 

Where an employee puts a strong 'case to answer' the burden of proving no discrimination shifts to the employer. 

It is normally best to use the Grievance Procedures first and not doing this can lead to a reduction in any tribunal award by up to 25%. These procedures also help to smoke out the issues and evidence earlier on should a tribunal claim be necessary. 

Awards for discrimination tend to be higher because there's no upper limit on lost earnings and they can include awards for stress and injury to feelings. 


Age Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010 employers must not discriminate against workers by treating them less favourably because of their age. This could be by making stereotypical assumptions- for example ‘older people are less inclined to change their ways.’

Discriminatory comments though rare can be very helpful but normally a worker will have to establish facts from which inferences of discrimination may be drawn. These could include: exclusion from meetings or social events, withdrawing the tasks and roles or patronising comments.

The factual basis for considering discrimination is very important. This requires tangible acts or omissions with dates and times and supporting evidence. These can then be put to an employer informally or through a grievance or after a dismissal in a solicitor’s letter. Failure to offer a non-discriminatory explanation may then lead to a finding of age discrimination.

Age discrimination claims can lead to larger pay outs because there's no upper limit on compensation and a tribunal may well find that it will be difficult for an older worker to find another job. Injury to feelings tend to be higher.


Disbility Discrimination

Workers with serious medical problems may have protection under the Equality Act 2010. The starting point is to look at the medical condition. Not all medical conditions are a disability. The condition must have a substantial adverse effect on the worker’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

Stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities are to be avoided.

Disability rights include:

  • Reasonable adjustments- an employer must consider steps to help workers remain in employment. They have to be reasonable- proportionate and likely to work such as: seeking medical advice, changes to hours, adaptions to work stations or even changes to performance procedures.
  • Direct discrimination- an employee must not be treated less favourably than other non-disabled workers because of any disability. This normally requires a comparator- a worker in a similar position. 
  • Victimisation- a worker who raises concerns about disability- related rights must not be subject to detriments or dismissal.
  • Discrimination arising from disability- a worker is protected from  from discrimination for things connected with the disability such as the need to take time off for medical appointments.

Disability cases can result in high value awards because it tends to be harder for disabled workers to find another job and related stress can often make the condition worse.

Race & Religious Belief Discrimination

Race and religious belief are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers who treat workers less favourably because of race or religious beliefs might be discriminating.

Workers who raise concerns about related legal rights must not be subject to detriments as this can amount to victimisation.

With these types of cases, an unbiased and fair investigation is very important. Where the worker is still employed a prompt and meaningful apology and training on equal opportunities can be all that is required.

Employers who take these steps can also have a defence to discrimination claims-the ‘reasonable steps’ defence.

Sex Discrimination

Workers must not be treated less favourably because of their sex. Examples of cases we have dealt with have included:

  • Allocation of jobs under the ‘old boys’ network’
  • Sexual harassment- unwanted or degrading behaviour at work
  • Dismissal of a senior female worker where the same facts applied to a male colleague who was not dismissed


Contact our Lawyers in Canary Wharf, London & Manchester

If you require legal advice regarding a possible discrimination claim, we can help. Call us or make an online enquiry using the contact form in the right hand side panel and take the first step to resolving your issue:

London: 020 7247 7190 | Manchester: 0161 850 4095 | Birmingham: 0121 728 6518

Gordon was a great help! Very speedy response and excellent service provided.

Gordon Turner is a very experienced employment lawyer, working mainly on resolving employment law matters worth over £10,000+. If your claim is likely to be worth less that £10,000 or if you need legal aid, please consider other employment lawyers via the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service.

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