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The following list gives you a general description of the types of acts that may be unlawful. Sometimes actions can be intentional, and sometimes unintentional and we include examples of both types in this list:

  • when somebody is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic than somebody else has been — or would have been — in identical circumstances, then this is direct discrimination. Rejecting a job applicant because of their beliefs would, for example, amount to direct discrimination.
  • when a group of people with one of the protected characteristics (subject to a couple of exceptions) is put at a disadvantage by a provision, practice or criteria applied to all staff, this is indirect discrimination
  • when a hostile, humiliating, degrading or similarly offensive environment is created in relation to a protected characteristic, this is harassment. We also consider it harassment for a worker to be subjected to uninvited conduct related to a protected characteristic that — as an intended or unintended consequence — violates their dignity. Name calling, lewd comments, excluding colleagues, making insensitive jokes, and displaying pornographic material are all examples of harassment. We deal in detail with harassment under our separate policy on harassment and bullying
  • when a worker has complained about harassment or discrimination, or supported a colleague in their complaint, it is victimisation if they are then treated less favourably.

The ‘protected characteristics’ are:

  • age
  • race (which includes colour and ethnic/national origin)
  • disability
  • religion or belief
  • gender
  • gender reassignment
  • pregnancy or maternity
  • sexual orientation
  • marital or civil partner status.

There are other actions which are illegal under the equal opportunities legislation, and these are collectively labelled other acts. Examples include:

  • instructing another person — or applying pressure on them — to discriminate
  • knowingly assisting somebody else when they carry out a discriminatory act
  • discriminating against somebody believed to have a protected characteristic, whether or not they actually do, or because they associate with a third party who does.

Everyone has a legal responsibility to comply, and anyone — management or staff — may be found personally liable for unlawful discrimination if they do not comply.

Discrimination can be a very complex area and, because tribunal awards if you are found to have discriminated, are uncapped, can be financially risky.  ForHR can help by providing policies, procedures and coaching/training, to try to prevent any issues, and also can help you if you receive complaints of discrimination.