We can support and represent you if you have suffered from discrimination at work.
This will have occurred if you have encountered prejudice, bias or any other unfair treatment at work, based on any of the following protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Marital or civil partnership status
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Your legal rights are established in the Equality Act 2010. This replaced previous legislation that was focused upon tackling discrimination.
What is discrimination?
There are four different types of discrimination at work you could suffer.
- Direct discrimination, where you have been treated differently from someone else because of one of the protected characteristics. The question is, had it not been for, say, your sex or race, would you not have been treated so detrimentally? If the answer is ‘yes’, you have grounds for claiming direct discrimination.
- Indirect discrimination, if there is a provision or requirement that may not be intended to discriminate against you, but nevertheless puts you at a disadvantage compared to someone not sharing the same characteristic. For example, a minimum height requirement for a role would indirectly discriminate against women.
- Victimisation, if you are penalised or punished for raising concerns about a discriminatory act.
- Harassment, relating to any unwanted conduct regarding one of the protected characteristics. It applies where the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity. Or it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment in which you work.
You have the right to pursue a discrimination complaint if any of the above circumstances apply.
Which workers are protected?
Much employment legislation provides protection only to those direct employees with contracts of employment with the company concerned. But this is different for discrimination law. All workers have the same protection: irrespective of whether they are employees, apprentices, contractors, agency staff or have any other employment status.
Are employers responsible for the actions of their employees?
The simple answer is ‘Yes’.
Employers have what’s known as ‘vicarious liability’ for the discriminatory acts of their workers, where these have been carried out in the course of their employment. This applies even if they neither knew, nor approved, of the acts that have led to a discrimination claim.
That is unless they can prove they have taken all reasonable preventative steps to stop discrimination happening in the first place.
To avoid liability, employers must therefore not merely issue policies and guidelines. They must take far more proactive steps to avoid discrimination occurring. This could be through effective training, running refresher courses and monitoring.
Also, whereas an employee normally has to have completed 2 years’ service before being able to make a complaint to employment tribunal, there is no qualifying service for a discrimination claim. In fact, it could relate to discrimination in the recruitment process, before you have even been taken on.
What about disability?
The same arrangements apply to disability as for other forms of discrimination.
You can read more here on what exactly ‘disability’ is defined, and how it should be handled in the workplace.
How can I pursue a grievance complaint?
If you have suffered from any form of discrimination at work, you should first raise your concerns through your employer’s formal grievance policy.
This provides you with important rights. And it is essential if you want to maximise the compensation you might receive if you eventually take legal action against your employer.
By following these links, you can read more about how to pursue a formal grievance. This includes how to prepare, your right to be accompanied at any formal grievance meeting, and the importance of producing an effective Written Statement. We also explain how WRS can assist you.
We have also published a 10-step guide on taking a grievance.
Will a settlement agreement be possible?
If you have presented a compelling case of discrimination at a grievance – especially with professional support – your employer may fear becoming embroiled in lengthy, costly and reputation-damaging legal proceedings.
In the circumstances, you could be in a strong position to negotiate a settlement agreement, as an alternative to pursuing your case all the way to employment tribunal. This is a legal arrangement where you agree compensation in return for forfeiting your right to pursue legal proceedings.
How much compensation you could secure in a settlement agreement depends upon the strength and nature of your case, and prospect of success. WRS can help maximise your chances through our effective workplace representation.
Read here for more details on settlement agreements.
Can I take my employer to employment tribunal?
If you have suffered discrimination, you can take your employer to employment tribunal. This could help you resolve your concerns and receive financial compensation.
But to do so, you must submit your complaint within three months of the last act of discrimination.
Also, bear in mind that any compensation you might be entitled to receive at employment tribunal could be reduced by up to 25%. This is if you don’t fully comply with ACAS guidelines for making a grievance complaint.
If you do pursue a legal case, in the first instance the burden of proof will be on you to show that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ discrimination is likely to have taken place. Having established this, the onus switches to your employer to attempt to prove that it absolutely didn’t take place and that it took all reasonable steps to prevent it.
What compensation might you receive?
If you succeed at employment tribunal, you could receive compensation for financial loss and injury to your feelings.
How much compensation you could receive has been decided by the Court of Appeal. It has produced what are known as the ‘Vento’ guidelines, recommending three bands of compensation depending upon the seriousness of the discrimination:
- £27,000 – £45,000 is the top band, for the most serious cases (which can exceptionally be exceeded)
- £9,000 – £27,000 is the middle band
- £900 – £9,000 is the lower band for less serious cases, typically relating to isolated incidences of discrimination
This compensation is in addition to the Basic Award you might also receive at employment tribunal.
What support can WRS provide?
Effective workplace representation is critical to your chances of successfully resolving concerns at work.
Unlike solicitors and other professionals, WRS’s representatives have direct experience of tackling employee problems within the workplace. As representatives of a trade union, they are permitted to accompany you at any formal meetings with your employer.
If you contact WRS about experiencing any form of discrimination, we can:
- Discuss with you your options and recommend how you proceed with tackling your concerns.
- Help you prepare a grievance, including producing a detailed Written Statement to maximise your chances of success.
- Arrange for you to be accompanied at your formal grievance meeting (and any subsequent appeal) by a representative of a trade union – even if you have not previously been a union member. You are only entitled to be accompanied by a work colleague or union specialist.
- Maximise your chances of securing an acceptable Settlement Agreement, if that is what you are seeking.
- Recommend a specialist solicitor, if you would legal support with pursuing an employment tribunal case.
You can find out more here about the unique workplace representation services WRS provides.