Discrimination law is found in the Equality Act 2010. The EA10 lists 9 “protected characteristics” – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The broad aim of EA10 is to outlaw less favourable treatment that takes place because of one of these protected characteristics. Discrimination can take one of four different forms:
Direct discrimination This is when because of a protected characteristic, a person treats another person less favourably then they treat or would treat others. Direct discrimination can include “associative discrimination” where a person suffers less favourable treatment because of their association with an individual who has the protected characteristic, and “perception discrimination” where a person suffers less favourable treatment because of a mistaken belief that they have the protected characteristic, for example less favourable treatment because of a mistaken belief that someone is gay.
Indirect Discrimination This is where a practice engaged in by the employer impacts negatively on workers sharing the protective characteristic. For example, a requirement for all employees to work nights would disproportionally impact women, as they are more likely to be carers.
Victimisation This law aims to protect someone who suffers as a result, for example, of a complaint about discrimination having been made or bringing discrimination proceedings.
Associative Discrimination may also be possible in relation to indirect discrimination and victimisation. This is a developing area of the law.
Harassment This is where someone suffers unwanted conduct because of a “protected characteristic”, with the purpose of effect of violating that persons dignity or creating “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive” environment for them. In the case of disability he EA10 includes two further legal rights:
The employers’ duty to make reasonable adjustments where a practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage when compared with a non-disabled person and the duty not to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something arising as a consequence of their disability. An employer will not be liable for direct discrimination or in the case of disability, for a failure to make reasonable adjustments, if it didn’t know and could not have known about the protected characteristic.
Across all equality strands, the Public Sector Equality Duty requires public authorities to have due regard, when exercising their functions, to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.
It is no longer necessary to pay fees in order to pursue an Employment tribunal claim and an appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal.