Discrimination on the grounds of an employee‘s sex, race, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion or other belief, age, married status or pregnancy is unlawful.
Unlike other statutory claims such as unfair dismissal or redundancy, an employee does not have to have spent a minimum qualifying period as an employee in order to be protected against these forms of discrimination. In fact a job applicant may make a claim against a potential employer if discrimination can be shown. It is also unlawful to treat part time, or fixed term employees less favourably than full time permanent employees.
Employers may be guilty of discrimination without realising it. Indirect discrimination is where an employer imposes a condition, rule or practice which adversely affects a group of employees who are protected from discrimination more than others.
Harrassment is a particular form of unwanted conduct which has the effect of undermining the dignity of an employee who is in one of the categories which is protected against discrimination. An employer can be liable for the acts of harassment by other employees if the employer does not have adequate policies to prevent or fails to take steps to prevent harassment taking place.
The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010, restating and harmonising discrimination law and replacing individual pieces of legislation much of which dated back to the 1970’s.