Discrimination can arise at all stages of the working relationship: before, during and after. The law covers employees, people contracting personally to do work or to provide a service, such as workers and LLP members. It is unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of nine areas described as protected characteristics.

What is discrimination?

Essentially, treating somebody or a group of people less favourably or unfavourably because of a particular characteristic, known as a “protected characteristic”. Discrimination can be inadvertent; motive or intention are irrelevant. There are different types of discrimination, it can be direct or indirect and there are more special rules applying to people who are disabled. People also have free standing rights not to be harassed or victimised.

What are the protected characteristics?

There are nine protected characteristics

  • Age: this covers one person or people in the same age group (e.g. “the over fifties”).
  • Disability: this is an impairment which can be either physical or mental
  • Gender reassignment: this includes people before, during and after undergoing a process and there is no requirement to be undergoing medical supervision
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership:
  • Pregnancy and maternity: this includes both pregnancy and an illness suffered as a result
  • Race: this includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins
  • Religion or belief: this means any religion and includes a lack of religion. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and, again, a lack of either or both.
  • Sex: gender.
  • Sexual orientation: orientation towards the same, the opposite or either sex.

How and where is a claim brought?

Before bringing a claim, the individual must contact ACAS and go through its early conciliation procedure. There is generally a three-month time limit and the time will be paused for the length of time it takes to complete the early conciliation procedure. The rules are quite complicated but individuals must start the early conciliation procedure before the time limit expires.


Unlike unfair dismissal, there is no length of service requirement or upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded and compensation can be awarded for injury to feelings.

How can we help?

Roberta can advise you on your rights and how to go about dealing with a problem to make sure that you achieve your objective. This can include drafting your grievance or request for flexible working, advising you on any internal hearings or meetings, negotiating a resolution settlement [that’s a link to settlement agreements employee] – and act for you in the Employment Tribunal if you bring a claim.

What should I do?

If you think that you may have been treated less favourably or unfavourably, contact Roberta