Workplace Discrimination: what are your rights?

Workplace Discrimination: what are your rights?

As highlighted by the recent investigation into English and Welsh cricket, discrimination is still a prevalent issue within UK society and within many workplaces in the United Kingdom.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people against discrimination at work and particularly discrimination regarding dismissal, employment terms and conditions, pay and benefits, promotion, and transfer opportunities, recruitment, and redundancy. The legal definition of 'discrimination' is the exclusion and unequal treatment of a person or a group in comparison to others due to their protected characteristics.

The following characteristics are protected from illegal discrimination:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage And Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy And Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion Or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

There are various types of discrimination which may occur against individuals with the above protected characteristics. These include direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation, and harassment.

  • Direct discrimination – where an individual is directly treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination – where every person in a group is treated equally, but because of this equal treatment, an individual with a protected characteristic is put at a disadvantage indirectly.
  • Victimisation – where an individual has made a complaint against either discrimination or harassment and receives negative treatment as a result.
  • Harassment – the unwanted and/or offensive behaviour which may violate an individual's dignity and create an intimidating environment as a result of the individuals protected characteristic.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people such as employees, workers, contractors and self-employed people, job applicants and any former employees against all forms of discrimination. Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the employers to protect their staff from discrimination; ensuring that they do not discriminate unfairly against employees and that they take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and comply with their duty of care to look after the general wellbeing of all members of staff.

To prevent discrimination within the workplace, it is crucial that employees know their rights in law and that employers know their legal obligations relating to discrimination.


Employers failing to deal with workplace discrimination may result in various discrimination complaints and employment tribunal claims being made against the company. Employers can also be held directly responsible for the actions of employees that may be displaying discriminatory behaviours against other individuals.

Discrimination claims made under the Equality Act 2010 can be expensive and the compensation that may be awarded to an employee who brings a successful discrimination claim is uncapped. It is therefore vital that employers actively have plans in place to deal with discrimination within the workplace to avoid the unfair treatment of staff and Employment Tribunal claims.


If an employee (or a worker) is being subjected to discrimination within the workplace, then they may bring a claim against their employer to the Employment Tribunal seeking compensation. As mentioned above, compensation within discrimination claims is not capped and therefore there is the potential for high amounts of compensation depending on the loss of earnings and conduct involved.

We urge employees to seek independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that any potential claims they have are brought within the requisite timeframe.

Our employment team have a great deal of experience in representing employees and employers in unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal and discrimination claims. Our specialist lawyers provide clear, practical advice which is tailored to the client's personal and commercial needs. We are open and transparent with our fees, allowing clients to make an informed decision.

If you require advice on any area of employment law please do not hesitate to get in contact with our dedicated Client Relations Team on 01603 693510 or email us at