Creating a fairer Britain
This guide calls you a worker if you are working for someone else (who this guide calls your employer) in a work situation. Most situations are covered, even if you don't have a written contract of employment or if you are a contract worker rather than a worker directly employed by your employer. Other types of worker such as trainees, apprentices and business partners is also covered. If you are not sure, check under 'work situation' in the Glossary. Sometimes, equality law only applies to particular types of worker, such as employees, and we make it clear if this is the case.
Make sure you know what is meant by:
These are known as protected characteristics.
Unlawful discrimination can take a number of different forms:
An employer refuses to give a worker access to facilities because of a protected characteristic.
An employer decides to apply a ‘no hats or other headgear’ rule to staff. If this rule is applied in exactly the same way to every member of staff, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and Rastafarians who may cover their heads as part of their religion will not be able to meet the requirements of the dress code and may face disciplinary action as a result. Unless the employer can objectively justify using the rule, this will be indirect discrimination.
An employer imposes a ‘no beards’ rule as part of a dress code and tells staff they will be disciplined if they do not shave. An employee is a disabled person who has a skin condition that makes shaving very painful. They have been treated unfavourably (threatened with disciplinary action) because of something arising from their disability (their inability to shave). Unless the employer can objectively justify the requirement, this may well be discrimination arising from disability if they knew, or could reasonably be expected to know, that the employee had this condition. It may also be a failure to make a reasonable adjustment.
A manager gives the father of a disabled child a bad report because they disapprove of the man’s requests to attend his child’s hospital appointments.
An employer incorrectly thinks one of their workers is gay. They tell them they must change their clothes in a dusty stock room rather than in the communal changing area. This is likely to be discrimination because of sexual orientation based on the employer’s perception, even though the worker is not gay (if the worker is gay, it would almost certainly be direct discrimination).
A worker helps a colleague with a sexual harassment claim against another worker. Because of this, their manager marks them down at their annual performance review, commenting that they are ‘not very loyal’. This would almost certainly be victimisation.
A transsexual woman is subjected to offensive ‘banter’ at work, relating to her gender reassignment. This creates a hostile and offensive atmosphere for her, and is likely to be harassment.
In addition, if you are a disabled person, to make sure that you have the same access, as far as is reasonable, to everything that is involved in getting and doing a job as a non-disabled person, your employer must make reasonable adjustments.
An employer usually gives workers a written copy of their draft annual appraisal and gives them a morning to read the draft and to send any comments to their line manager. The employer arranges for a worker with severe dyslexia to meet their line manager instead and talk through the draft and provide comments. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment for the employer to make.
We look at the process your employer should follow if you become a disabled person or if the impact of your impairment changes in: If you become a disabled person.