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We all deserve respect and fair treatment at work. When everyone can make the most of their hard work and talents, we’re all better off. But too many working people still face prejudice and discrimination.

By law, you mustn’t be discriminated against based on your age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, or gender reassignment. These are called protected characteristics.

So, if your employer (or a co-worker) is treating you worse or harassing you because of any of these characteristics, they’re breaking the law.

What’s more, your workplace shouldn’t be run in a way that stops people with protected characteristics from doing as well as anyone else. That’s called indirect discrimination, and it’s illegal too.

It doesn’t matter what size the company is or what kind of contract you’re on – bosses can’t duck equality law.

If you feel you’re being discriminated against, there are lots of ways you can take action to enforce your rights.

But employers are most likely to pay attention when workers act together, especially through a trade union. It’s the best way to bring about new policies and practices that make the workplace fairer for everyone.

This section offers information on your rights and on what you can do if you think you’re being discriminated against.

But it shouldn’t be taken as legal or financial advice. Discrimination law is complex and every case is different. Before taking any action, you should seek individual advice from your union or a qualified adviser.

Since I became a Disability Advisor six years ago, the company hasn’t been to an employment tribunal on the grounds of disability discrimination
Carl, Disability Equality Adviser
What is discrimination?
Direct discrimination occurs when an employee or worker is treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic. An example would be if a man was told he had not been appointed to a secretarial post because it was regarded as a woman's job...
What is harassment?
The term 'harassment' is often used loosely in a work setting to describe unpleasant or bullying behaviour. However, in the context of the Equality Act, it has a specific meaning. The harassment banned by the Equality Act is any unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person, related to a protected characteristic (e.g. sex, race, disability, etc.).
I think my employer is discriminating against me. What can I do?
The Equality Act 2010 protects you from suffering discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic, i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/ civil partnership, pregnancy/ maternity, race, religion/ belief, sex or sexual orientation. The Trade Union Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 protects you from suffering negative treatment on the basis of your union membership.
I've applied for a job, but been rejected because of my appearance. Is that legal?
If the employer has refused you a job because of your physical appearance, the organisation may be engaging in unlawful discrimination. Discrimination will be no less unlawful just because it is subconscious or unspoken, or because it is based on ingrained or stereotypical assumptions. The employer may not even be aware that they are engaging in discrimination.
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