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15 Equal Opportunities

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1. Introduction

2. When discrimination can happen

3. Types of discrimination

The law on equality talks about two types of discrimination.

  • Direct discrimination, which is when you are treated less favourably because, for example, you are a woman, or of a certain age.
  • Indirect discrimination, which can happen where there are rules or conditions, policies or practices at work that apply to everyone but disavantage one group of people more than others, without a good business reason. For example, a company rule that says that employees must do night shifts could disadvantage women who have children to care for.

In certain cases, discrimination is allowed. For example, an actor may have to be of a certain age for a particular role. See below for more about when employers are allowed to discriminate:

Harassment

Harassment is unwanted behaviour that violates your dignity (is humiliating) or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment at work that is related to sex, race, disability, sexual preference, religion or belief, age or because you are transgender is unlawful (illegal).

Harassment may be:

  • targeted at you because, for example, you are gay or hold certain religious beliefs; or
  • part of the general culture in your workplace, which allows anti-gay or religious jokes and teasing.

Harassment does not have to be deliberate to be unlawful. Unintentional harassment may be unlawful if what happened could be reasonably considered to have caused offence.

If your colleagues at work harass you and the employer does nothing about it, your employer (as well as the staff) may be held responsible.

Also, your employer may be held responsible if you are repeatedly harassed at work by someone other than a colleague, such as a client or customer, and your employer knows about the harassment but does nothing about it.

Victimisation
Victimisation is when your employer treats you less favourably because you:

  • have complained about being discriminated against;
  • are helping a colleague who is complaining; or
  • have been called as a witness in disciplinary proceedings.

Victimisation is unlawful in the same way discrimination is.

Also, an employer must not victimise you after you have left the job, for example by refusing to give you a reference because you complained of discrimination.

4. Sex discrimination

5. Transgender people

6. Discrimination because you are gay or lesbian

7. Discrimination because of your religion or beliefs

8. Discrimination because of your age

9. What you can do about discrimination

10. Dealing with discrimination at work

11. Going to an employment tribunal

12. Dealing with other types of discrimination

13. The Human Rights Act

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet


This leaflet was published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Sara Leslie

Leaflet Version: December 2007

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