Direct Discrimination

20 April 2022

Whether it was intended or not, there should be no room for discrimination in the workplace. Ireland’s employment laws have outlined the extent of unlawfulness when it comes to ill-treatment at work.

Employers need to consider legal and moral factors when it comes to treating staff differently – even if they have good intentions.

Failing this, your employees are left feeling unvalued and disrespected – meaning they won’t stick around for long.

Employees could even raise claims of discrimination to tribunal courts. Which can lead to costly legal fees and significant compensation payments – along with effects on your business output and reputation.

In this guide, we’ll discover what is meant by direct discrimination, the different types, and how to deal with discrimination in the workplace.

What is direct discrimination? 

Direct discrimination is when you treat an employee unfavourably because of a specific circumstance or protected characteristic.

Normally, if an employee is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic, it’s classed as unlawful discrimination.

So long as the unfair treatment is because of a protected characteristic, it counts as direct discrimination. 

Direct discrimination in Irish law

The Employment Equality Acts (1998-2015) and the Equal Status Act (2000-2018) prohibit discrimination based on nine grounds:

When is direct discrimination acceptable?

There are certain situations where treating an employee differently is acceptable. For example, having an earlier retirement age for firefighters might seem like direct age discrimination.

But this is done because of safety and capability issues – classing it as objectively justifiable. To prove your actions were justified, you need to show legal reasoning.

However, if an employee faces direct disability discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination, it’s unlawful – even if it’s justified.

Positive discrimination’ can still be illegal, even if you take the right steps or have good intentions.

What is the difference between direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace?

Indirect discrimination happens when a practice, policy, or rule creates unfair treatment against a group of people. Enforcing a company-wide ban can be classed as indirect discrimination (unless it’s objectively justified).

An example of direct discrimination in the workplace can include:

  • Two employees with the same qualifications apply for a managerial role. The employer chooses not to promote the employee who is visible tattoos, in fear of stigma and discomfort.
  • An example of indirect discrimination in the workplace can include:
  • An employer decides a team needs to commute to another branch once a week. The commute might prove difficult for single-parent employees, who have heightened childcare responsibilities.

How to deal with direct discrimination in the workplace?

harassment, and victimisation found within their workplace.

Any staff member guilty of unlawful treatment, during their employment, should be dealt with through the appropriate grievance and disciplinary procedures.

Some employees might hesitate to report direct discrimination cases. They might fear repercussions on career development and opportunities. And if they don’t feel valued, they could leave or raise claims to external grievance organisations.

An anti-discrimination policy can help employees raise any ill-treatment they experience. It should include:

  • Zero-tolerance for any form of workplace discrimination.
  • Steps to take for reporting cases.
  • Grievance meetings to discuss incidents.
  • Consequences for those found guilty of discrimination.

Get expert advice on direct discrimination with Peninsula

As an employer, one of your biggest responsibilities is to protect your staff whilst they are under your employment. This means protecting their mental and physical state – and eliminating all forms of workplace harassment, victimisation, and discrimination.

Without a safe and healthy working environment, you risk losing employees and facing tribunal hearings – all of which will ruin business productivity and reputation.

Peninsula offers expert advice on eliminating workplace discrimination. Our employee wellbeing services allow safeguarding for employee rights – helping you grow a happier and safer workspace.

We offer 24/7 HR advice that’s available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Call 0844 891 0353 for help in promoting health and wellbeing at work.

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