Types of Discrimination: Dealing with Unfair Treatment at Work

Are you dealing with unfair treatment at work, but aren’t 100% certain? To learn about the types of discrimination out there, and what they look like so you can be sure, read on…


Dealing with unfair treatment at work is something no employee should have to go through. If you are being treated differently than other employees in your workplace due to your age, gender, disability, or religious background, it’s likely you can claim discrimination against your employer.


There are several types of discrimination which fall under the Equality Act 2010, that protect you from being treated unfairly by your boss. Examples of discrimination can be endless, for example, if you have a mental or physical impairment, such as Erb’s palsy, which makes one of your arms effectively paralysed, you can claim erbs palsy compensation under the Equality Act.


In this article we will tell you exactly what discrimination is, what the different types of discrimination are, and how you can claim compensation if you feel you’re receiving unfair treatment at work. So, for all this, so you can make sure you get the treatment you deserve, read on…

What are the Types of Discrimination in the Workplace?


There are two primary types of discrimination noted in the Equality Act 2010. These are direct and indirect discrimination, and are based on the unfair treatment of these protected characteristics:


  • Age
  • Disability (including mental health complications)
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity (doesn’t apply to indirect discrimination)
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


Direct Discrimination Defined


Direct discrimination is when someone is treated differently than other employees based on one of the protected characteristics, above. Not giving someone a promotion because they’re too young, or not hiring someone because they’re a married woman who might go on maternity leave at some point, are examples of direct discrimination.


Indirect Discrimination Defined


Indirect discrimination is when an employee is treated the same as everyone else, but this affects them differently due to their specific characteristic. For example, if an employer asks his employees to attend an obligatory meeting during the Friday Muslim call to prayer, they could be sued for discrimination against their Muslim employees.


Types of Discrimination: How to Tell if You Have a Protected Characteristic


We now know what the two types of discrimination are. Now it’s important to know what constitutes the various protected characteristics in order to determine whether you are  being discriminated against. So, here are the most common characteristics affected by discrimination in the workplace:

Disability Discrimination


You’re classified as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment. If this impairment has a long-term effect on your ability to perform day-to-day tasks, then you most certainly qualify. That being said, some types of disability are covered, whether they affect your day-to-day activities or not, such as:


  • Cancer, including benign tumours that need to be removed before they metastasise;
  • Site impairment and blindness;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • HIV positive;
  • Or a severe disfigurement, such as facial scarring and skin diseases.


Knowing the Difference Between Discrimination and Misunderstanding


Sometimes, it can be tricky to know what classes as discrimination, as it’s natural to act differently around some disabled people, depending on their need. For example, an autistic employee might require different communication styles than other people.


Those on the autistic spectrum are likely to have extraordinary talent in certain fields, for example art or computer programming. That said, social barriers and a lack of understanding from others, could be tricky to navigate as an employer or colleague.


However, despite these social barriers, and potential difficulties with communicating effectively, there’s a difference between misunderstanding and discrimination. If colleagues are involving the disabled or special needs individual, but are simply struggling to communicate, that’s alright. However, if it’s clear that the individual is being isolated, looked down upon, and treated differently in a negative way, this is discrimination.


If you plan on taking action against an employer for disability discrimination, you’ll need medical evidence of your condition, and likely some proof that your employer was aware of it.


Age Discrimination


With the age gap at work now able to span 50 years, age discrimination has become one of the most common forms of unfair treatment at work. Features recognised under this characteristic are:


  • Unfair treatment at work because of someone’s age, the age they are thought to be, or the age of someone associated with them.
  • Harassment because of a person’s age.
  • Varying treatment of someone due to their age, old or young.


Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination


Pregnancy discrimination is a separate protected characteristic from sex, so the woman does not need to prove that she is being treated differently from her male co-workers. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is disproportionate treatment of a woman due to her pregnancy, or because she wants to take maternity leave.


Examples of discrimination in relation to pregnancy and maternity include:


  • Being made redundant due to a pregnancy;
  • Being dismissed from a job position entirely;
  • Refusal of promotion or training opportunities;
  • Pressure to resign from a position;
  • Reduction of pay due to either pregnancy or maternity leave;
  • Or, failure to carry out a risk assessment for a pregnant employee.


If you feel like you fall under any of these categories, you’re definitely entitled to make a claim. This is one of the longest standing discriminatory scenarios in the UK, with heaps of past cases behind it, so you’re not alone.

Religious Discrimination


Religious discrimination is – you guessed it – treating an employee differently on the basis of their religion. On the opposite end of the scale, this also applies if you’re being treated differently to your lack of religion. You must not be treated differently than other employees because:


  • You are, or are not, a member of a particular religion;
  • You hold, or do not hold, a certain philosophical belief;
  • A person thinks you are a member of a particular religion or hold a particular belief (also known as discrimination by perception);
  • Or, you have connections to someone who holds a certain religion or belief (also known as discrimination by association).


If you feel you hold any of the above characteristics, or the other 9 listed under the Equality Act 2010, you have grounds to take your employer to court. But, how can you go about this? Well, this leads us nicely on to our final section: how to make a claim against an employer for unfair treatment at work


How to Claim for Discrimination and Unfair Treatment at Work


So, now we know what unfair treatment at work is, you’re probably wondering what the next steps are. Firstly, you need to be aware of the grounds on which a tribunal can order your employer to pay you. The tribunal can order your employer to pay for:


  • Any money you’ve lost as a direct result of the discrimination, known as financial loss. If you have lost your job as result of the discrimination, you can be paid up until your next employment, within reason of course.
  • Any hurt or distress the discrimination has caused you, known as ‘injury to feelings.’
  • A personal injury, physical or mental, cause by the discrimination.
  • Blatant bad behaviour on the part of your employer, known as ‘aggravated damages.’


Some of these are more easily provable than others, with financial loss being the easiest, and injury to feelings being the most difficult. Then, if you feel have a good case for unfair treatment at work compensation based on the above grounds, then it’s time to get in touch with a solicitor.


Often times, a solicitor will assess whether the case is worth taking in the first place. Then, they’ll take it on a no win no fee basis, if they’re confident of winning the unfair treatment at work lawsuit. If you are dubious about hiring a solicitor, or going to a tribunal over unfair treatment at work acas can mediate a resolution without you having to go to a tribunal.

Think You’ve Been Treated Unfairly at Work?


That just about covers everything you need to know about types of workplace discrimination, and dealing with unfair treatment at work. The only people who know more about discrimination at work than you now are the professionals, and you can leave the intricate details to them.


Discrimination can be direct or indirect, it covers 9 protected characteristics and there are multiple ways in which compensation could be owed to you. However, the only thing you need to remember is that if you are being discriminated against on the basis of a characteristic you have no control over, you deserve to be treated better.


Good luck on your journey, and I hope you are able to resolve any dispute you might be having with your employer. If you have any experience in dealing with this, do let me know in the comments below. Together, we can stop workplace discrimination