Unlawful discrimination can take a number of different forms:
- You must not treat a worker worse than another worker because of a protected characteristic (this is called direct discrimination).
An employer is deciding how much to pay two trainees who are starting work. Both trainees will be doing the same job. If the employer decided to pay one of the trainees less because they were a disabled person, this would almost certainly be unlawful discrimination because of disability.
- In the case of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave, the test is not whether the woman is treated worse than someone else, but whether she is treated unfavourably from the time she tells you she is pregnant to the end of her maternity leave (equality law calls this the protected period) because of her pregnancy or a related illness or because of maternity leave.
- You must not do something which has (or would have) a worse impact on a worker and on other people who share a particular protected characteristic than on people who do not have that protected characteristic. Unless you can show that what you have done, or intend to do, is objectively justified, this will be indirect discrimination. Doing something can include making a decision, or applying a rule or way of doing things.
An employer provides a company car only to workers for whom insurance costs are below a certain limit. Because insurance costs for younger drivers are generally higher, this may mean that younger workers are not eligible for a company car. Unless the employer can objectively justify their company car policy, this may be indirect discrimination because of age.
- You must not treat a disabled worker unfavourably because of something connected to their disability where you cannot show that what you are doing is objectively justified. This only applies if you know or could reasonably have been expected to know that the person is a disabled worker. This is called discrimination arising from disability.
An employer gives workers a bonus if they have not taken more than three days off sick in the previous year. They do not separately record time off for sickness and time off for medical appointments taken by disabled people. A worker who is a newly disabled person because of an amputation has to attend a clinic once a month to have their prosthetic leg checked. They have to take half a days leave each time and this has been recorded as six days sickness absence over the course of the year. Unless the employer can objectively justify using sickness absence as a test for whether workers receive the bonus, this is likely to be discrimination arising from disability, as the disabled worker has been treated unfavourably (not receiving the bonus) for a reason connected with or arising from their disability (the need for time off for the appointments).
- You must not treat a worker worse than another worker because they are associated with a person who has a protected characteristic.
A small chain of fast food restaurants gives staff with children vouchers so that they can take their children for cheap meals. One member of staff has a disabled child and does not receive the vouchers because their manager assumes that the child will not be able to go to the restaurant. This is probably direct discrimination because of disability by association.
- You must not treat a worker worse than another worker because you incorrectly think they have a protected characteristic (perception).
A small employer has one Asian member of staff who they assume is a Muslim. Because of this, they do not offer the worker an opportunity to attend a networking event which would benefit them in their career, because it is a dinner where alcohol will be served and they are also unsure whether a Muslim's dietary requirements will be accommodated. She is not a Muslim but has been denied an opportunity based on an incorrect assumption about her religion or belief. This is probably direct discrimination because of religion or belief by perception. Instead, the employer should discuss the opportunity with the worker, which would sort out any misunderstandings.
- You must not treat a worker badly or victimise them because they have complained about discrimination or helped someone else complain, or done anything to uphold their own or someone elses equality law rights.
A worker who complains unsuccessfully but in good faith of sexual harassment by their manager is not given a bonus at the end of the year. If the reason for denying them the bonus is the complaint, this would almost certainly be victimisation.
This also includes treating a worker badly because they have discussed with anyone (including a colleague, former colleague or trade union representative) whether they are paid differently because of a protected characteristic.
A worker who is of Bangladeshi origin thinks he may be being underpaid because of his race compared with a white colleague. He asks the white colleague what he is being paid and the colleague tells him, even though his contract forbids him from disclosing his pay to other staff. The employer takes disciplinary action against the white colleague as a result and dismisses him. This would be treated as victimisation.
- You must not harass a worker.
A worker is denied a bonus because she refuses to submit to sexual harassment by her manager and instead reports him. The withholding of the bonus is a further act of harassment under the equality law definition as it is less favourable treatment because of that refusal to submit.
In addition, to make sure that a disabled worker has the same access, as far as is reasonable, to everything that is involved in doing a job (including pay and benefits) as a non-disabled worker, you must make reasonable adjustments.
You must make reasonable adjustments to what you do as well as the way that you do it.
You can read more about making reasonable adjustments to remove barriers for disabled people.