There are a number of Acts and Regulations which make up UK law, and which are described later.
This section is only intended to provide a brief summary of the various pieces of legislation and should not be taken as a full statement of the law.
Importantly, it does not necessarily matter if an employer intended to discriminate. It is the effect of the discrimination which is important.
The following apply differently to each category of discrimination, such as race, sex etc.
This is where an employer treats one member of staff differently than another, for one of the discriminatory reasons above.
This is where an employer applies a 'provision, criterion or practice' which effectively disadvantages members of one of these groups.
For example, an employer may apply a practice which disadvantages staff from a particular racial group e.g. by refusing to allow hair to be covered in the workplace.
Such action does not directly discriminate, as it applies to the whole workforce.
However, in practice it indirectly discriminates against those groups whose race or religion require them to cover their hair.
Unwanted conduct that violates dignity, or creates an intimidating hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
For example, victimisation would occur where a gay man is treated less favourably having previously made a complaint of discrimination (including one made in an internal grievance) or having acted as a witness in a discrimination case.
Procedures in operation in your workplace such as sickness absence management procedures, promotion, transfer, should all comply with discrimination legislation.
They should also contain a clear process for complaint or grievance where discrimination has occurred.
Importantly, there is a significant difference between a poor or bullying manager / employer, and what constitutes illegal discrimination.
Unless an individual is blatantly abusive or offensive, it is unlikely that a one off act will be construed as discriminatory behaviour.
A clear distinction must be drawn between a poor employer / manager who treats everyone badly or who bullies an individual and someone who treats the individual differently (i.e. detrimentally) for a discriminatory reason.
Discrimination can also occur when rules are rigidly applied to certain individuals, but not to others. Often discrimination is demonstrated through a distinct pattern of behaviour.
The Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) was amended in 2003 by the Race Relations Act (Amendment) Regulations 2003.
The amended act means that it is illegal to discriminate on grounds of race, ethnic or national origins.
Unlike the original RRA, the 2003 regulations do not cover discrimination on grounds of colour or nationality.
Legal advice suggests that most discrimination can probably be categorised as being on grounds of race, ethnic and national origins.
Religious groups are not generally protected under the RRA (there are exceptions for example Sikhs have been classed as a distinct racial group) .
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 now cover discrimination on grounds of religion or belief as well.
If in doubt, include claims under both the RRA and the EE(R&R)Regs 2003.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sex or marital status, and applies equally to women and men.
The SDA can be applied to any discriminatory behaviour in the workplace, apart from contractual issues such as pay.
The Equal Pay Act 1970 covers such contractual issues.
Again there are specific definitions of Direct and Indirect discrimination.
For example, to prove indirect sex discrimination, a member would need to show the employer has imposed a 'provision, criterion or practice', which is to the detriment of a significantly larger proportion of women than men, and which the employer is unable to justify.
An example might be an employer who had a minimum height requirement, where women are less likely to be able to reach that height requirement, and where that height requirement cannot be justified by the demands of the job.
Harassment is now specifically unlawful under all the discrimination strands, where it is related to a person's sex, race, disability, sexual orientation or religion and belief.
Employers are obliged to take steps in order to protect employees against harassment.
If employers foresee acts that could cause physical or psychiatric injury to employees and do nothing about it, they are liable to possible negligence claims.
Alternatively, such claims may be pursued under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997. Such claims are often difficult to prove.
Harassment is defined in the discrimination legislation as conduct which has the purpose of effect of:
The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999, and the tender Recognition Act 2005 provide protection against direct (but not indirect) discrimination for those who either undergo or intend to undergo gender reassignment.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) came into effect in 1996, with all elements fully introduced from October 2004.
The effect of this is that it is unlawful to discriminate against people with a disability, as defined by the Act:
The introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 means that it is also now unlawful to discriminate against staff on grounds of sexual orientation.
Direct discrimination in these cases would involve comparing the treatment of one worker to another.
Indirect dscrimination again involves the existence of a 'provision, criterion or practice' which disadvantages staff of a particular sexual orientation.
If a rep is subjected to a detriment by the employer with the purpose of preventing or deterring him / her from taking part in trade union activities at a reasonable time, the rep may have a claim.
Note that where the action by the employer relates to the way that the rep has carried out her duties (for example by acting in a bullying and aggressive manner), this may not be unlawful.
Claims may also arise where a person is made redundant / dismissed on the grounds of his / her trade union activities.
Or where a person is refused employment on the grounds of trade union membership.
Legal advice should be sought as quickly as possible from the Bargaining Unit in all such cases.
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