UK law provides you with protection against discrimination at work. Protection from discrimination is wide-ranging. It covers all people in the work place, including those who are supplied via an agency.
UK discrimination law protects you if you have been treated badly at work because of an aspect of your identity. The law does not protect everyone in all circumstances. It protects people who have what is known as a “protected characteristic” – if they are subject to particular types of behaviour in the workplace.
What are the “protected characteristics” that the law protects?
UK law protects people who are treated badly at work because of one, or more, of the following characteristics:
- Sex – this applies whether you are male or female; both genders can potentially be discriminated against.
- Sexual orientation.
- Pregnancy and/or maternity.
- Religion or belief.
- Marital status.
- Gender reassignment – this might apply if you are treated less favourably because you are in the process of changing from one gender to another, or if you have had your gender changed.
- Age – for example, younger workers are able to make a claim for age discrimination, if they are being treated less favourably than more mature members of the workforce. Age discrimination is one type of discrimination that can, potentially, be justified.
What kind of discriminatory behaviour is unlawful?
The law says that there are four different types of behaviour that would breach UK employment law.
- Direct discrimination – this might have taken place if you are treated badly at work as a direct result of having a “protected characteristic”. For example, if you are demoted, or receive a pay cut, because you have become pregnant.
- Indirect discrimination – indirect discrimination occurs if you are treated negatively at work in a way that is indirectly linked to your protected characteristic. For example, if you have a disability which means that you are not able to work full-time, and the organisation that you work for decides not to pay any bonuses to part-time employees, this might be indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination can occur in lots of different circumstances. It might not be immediately obvious if this type of discrimination is taking place, and a solicitor may be able to assist you in exploring this further.
- Harassment – if you are treated in a way that makes you feel intimidated, humiliated or degraded at work because of your protected characteristic, this may be harassment. Whether the circumstances are intimidating, humiliating or degrading depends on how the situation makes you feel, rather than the intentions of those who might be making you feel this way. Again, speaking to a specialist employment solicitor about the situation might help you to gain perspective on whether harassment is taking place and, if it is, how to manage the situation if you choose to bring a claim.
- Victimisation – if you are treated in a negative way at work because you have done something such as brought, or threatened to bring, an employment tribunal claim, helped a colleague to bring an employment tribunal claim or have complained about treatment at work that you consider to be harassment, you may be being victimised. Victimisation can arise in a wide range of circumstances and it is worth speaking to an employment law solicitor if you think that you might be being victimised.
Discrimination claims for the four different types of discrimination – direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation – can be brought alongside each other. Quite often, an employee or worker can be subject to more than one type of discrimination. Compensation for a successful discrimination claim can often be substantial, because there is no compensation cap.
What should I do if I am worried about discrimination at work?
Many people feel unable to take action if they have been the victim of discrimination at work. They are frightened of the consequences – for example, that they might lose their job if they complain or that they might not be believed by their line manager or HR department, or by their colleagues. Other people might be concerned that complaining is disloyal, or could upset their co-workers.
However, the law provides you with strong protection if you have been discriminated against.
If you are concerned that you are being discriminated against at work, speaking to a specialist employment law solicitor might help you to feel more confident about whether your rights are being breached and, if so, whether you have a strong basis to make a claim.
Taking action when you are concerned that you are being discriminated at work might result in:
- The payment or award of compensation for the loss that you have suffered.
- Changes to your working conditions, so that they are more pleasant and rewarding.
- Changes in your workplace which might benefit other employees.
Do I need to have worked for the organisation for a certain length of time in order to bring a claim?
No – you are able to bring a claim for discrimination regardless of how long you have worked somewhere.
Protection from discrimination is known as a “day-one right”. In fact, discrimination protection also applies to the recruitment process.
What are the remedies for discrimination?
There is no upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for a discrimination claim. This means that the damages awarded for a successful claim could be quite high, depending on the severity of the circumstances, such as the financial loss that you have suffered and/or the degree of emotional distress caused by the discrimination.
How is compensation calculated?
Calculating compensation for discrimination is not straightforward, and involves weighing up the overall impact that it has had on you.
Compensation can be awarded on a number of bases, including:
- Loss of earnings, if you are dismissed for discriminatory reasons.
- Other loss to you such as failure by your employer to grant a promotion, a bonus or to provide you with additional shifts or overtime.
- Injury to feelings. This is more difficult to measure than the loss of earnings, but it is awarded to take account of the degree of emotional distress suffered if you have been discriminated against. The amount that is awarded is determined using some guidelines. If the nature of the discrimination is not too severe, the lowest range of £900 – £8,900 in compensation will apply. If the discrimination is more severe, the middle range of £8,600 – £25,700 will apply. Finally, if the nature of the discrimination is very severe, the range of £25,700 – £42,900 will apply. In exceptional circumstances, you might be entitled to compensation in excess of £42,900.
How can Truth Legal help?
Navya Shekhar, who is Head of Employment at Truth Legal, has extensive experience advising people in respect of their discrimination claims:
Navya advises that:
“If you believe that you might have a discrimination claim, it is important to speak to a qualified solicitor, who can advise you.
A solicitor with expertise in this area will be able to identify whether you have a potential discrimination claim, the strength of the claim, and the type of claim, or claims, that you might be able to bring.
In addition, a solicitor will be able to guide you through a period that is potentially emotional, stressful and difficult, and ensure that you are well-represented and able to fight your corner when you might feel least able to defend yourself.”
How will I fund my claim?
You might be concerned about how you will be able to fund your discrimination claim.
Truth Legal can discuss your options with you.
1. No Win No Fee Agreement:
One option is to agree a “no win, no fee agreement” with Truth Legal. We will be able to talk to you about the merits of your claim early on. We will also be able to explain the basis on which we can advise you, so you will have a clear understanding about your legal costs.
2. Legal Expenses Insurance:
Another option is to purchase legal expenses insurance which will provide cover for the costs of legal advice and bringing a court case, if you decide to do this.
Truth Legal can advise you about the type of legal expenses insurance that it most likely to be relevant to you.
3. Fixed fee work
We can offer a fixed fee work. This means that we will agree a price to get you to a particular point in your claim. Additional work can always be undertaken. Fixed fees allow clients to know precisely where they are up to.
4. Low hourly rated work
Like most law firms, we can also accept instructions, charging you an hourly rate. We are proud to offer lower rates for such work. We will estimate the costs to get to you to particular points in your claim.
Finding out more information
If you would like more information on claiming discrimination compensation, or you wish to discuss your situation, contact us today. We would be more than happy to chat things through with you in a free consultation, with no obligation to proceed further.
Let us help you to claim the compensation you deserve.