Discrimination occurs when one employee is treated less favourably than another by an employer. It could be on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity leave, gender reassignment, nationality, colour, religion or belief or age.

As an employer you are obliged to take steps to eliminate discrimination in recruitment and in your workplace to ensure you comply with the different aspects of equalities legislation.

Discrimination can fall into various categories.

  • Direct discrimination is when one employee is treated less favourably than another on the basis of age, gender, religion or belief, disability or sexual orientation.
  • Indirect discrimination is when an employer imposes a particular requirement or practice on all employees that may unnecessarily disadvantage a certain group such as requiring employees be clean shaven may disadvantage certain religious groups.
  • Harassment is defined as offensive or intimidating behaviour which aims to humiliate, degrade, undermine the target and violate their dignity
  • Victimisation is when someone is treated less favourably than others because they have made a complaint or allegation concerned with discrimination on the basis of age, gender, religion or belief, disability or sexual orientation.

The Acas approach to discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace is documented in the Equality Act 2010, and therefore certain individual characteristics are protected from discrimination by law. However, it also makes sound business sense to view this legislation in a more positive light, as an encouragement to promote greater equality.

For employers that are looking for ways to support equal job opportunities and fairness for all members of staff, the Acas guidelines on discrimination provide a useful resource to do so. Not only is this promotion of equality among employees the right moral thing to do, it also makes sound business sense by impacting positively on organisational performance and relationships within teams.