Jennifer Rowlinson | Associate

Discrimination – An Overview

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of who they are. The Act also protects you if people in your life, e.g. family members, have a protected characteristic and you’re treated unfairly because of their protected characteristic.

There are 9 protected characteristics which are protected by the Equality Act 2010:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Types of Discrimination  

There are different types of discrimination set out in the Equality Act 2010:

  1. Direct Discrimination

Occurs where an individual, because of a protected characteristic, receives less favourable treatment from another individual. A tribunal will have to consider the reason why an individual was treated less favourably to determine whether it relates to a protected characteristic.

  1. Indirect Discrimination

Relates to acts, decisions or policies which are not intended to treat anyone less favourably, but which, in practice, have the effect of disadvantaging a group of people with a particular protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination is group based and requires more than one person to be disadvantaged. A typical example is an employer requiring all employees to work full time. Such a requirement could be indirectly discriminatory against a woman with childcare responsibilities.

Some discrimination claims do not result in liability if the act, decision or policies, were introduced as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. A tribunal will be required to consider whether the legitimate business needs are sufficient to outweigh the discriminatory conduct.

  1. Harassment

Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

  1. Victimisation

Legally, victimisation is when someone is treated badly because they have done a protected act such as bringing a discrimination claim, helping someone else to make a discrimination claim or making an allegation that someone else has breached the act.

  1. Instructing, causing, inducing or knowingly helping unlawful acts

The act makes it unlawful for an individual to instruct, cause, induce or help someone to discriminate against another person.

Time Limits

A discrimination claim must normally be submitted to an employment tribunal before “the end of the period of three months starting with the date of the act to which the complaint relates.”

Acts which occur before the three months may still form the basis of the claim if they are part of “conduct extending over a period.” Where an act or acts of discrimination extend over a period, they are treated as having occurred at the end of the course of discriminatory conduct.


Jennifer Rowlinson

Jennifer Rowlinson

Personal Injury Team

“I particularly enjoy being involved in court hearings and helping my client’s feel supported through the court process from beginning to end”

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