Discrimination laws exist to protect you against discrimination (direct and indirect) during both the recruitment process and the term of your employment.
What do you mean by 'direct and indirect discrimination'? What's the difference?
OK, it's like this: direct discrimination is where workers or jobseekers (i.e. you) are treated less favourably on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or age, for example.
Indirect discrimination happens where there are criteria, policies, rules or practices in place which put certain individuals at a disadvantage. It might not be deliberate discrimination — and it often isn't — but it’s still illegal.
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA)
The Sex Discrimination Act preventsemployers and recruiters from treating prospective employees differently on the basis of gender or marital status. The same regulations come into play in the case of pregnancy or sexual harassment and the law also covers contract workers and temporary employees.
There are some exceptions which allow employers to apply restrictions under the Genuine Occupational Qualification (GOQ). This allows employers to restrict applications dependent on the essentials of the job, for example, advertising for a female to model women’s clothes.
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
It’s unlawful for any employer to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. The law covers the entire employment process from recruitment to employment and training and covers everyone regardless of whether an individual is heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual..
Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA)
Employers cannot discriminate on the grounds of race, colour or nationality (this also applies to citizenship, ethnicity and national origin). An amendment to the Race Relations Act in 2000 requires public authorities prove they do not discriminate, even if their functions are carried out by a private business.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
It’s illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of an individual’s religion or beliefs. Under these regulations, staff must be given the right to request annual leave to coincide with religious festivals.
The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
These regulations, which came into effect from October 1st 2006, make it illegal for an employer or recruiter to discriminate on the basis of age. This appliesnot only to the recruitment process, but also to promotion and training opportunities.
The regulations also introduced new retirement procedures, meaning that employers must enter into a 'constructive dialogue' should an employee wish to continue working beyond retirement age. In addition, the age limit for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights was also removed.
What can I do if I think I have been discriminated against during the recruitment process?
If you think you have been discriminated against during the job hunting process, youu’re entitled to take action. The main issues to contest are:
• Unfair selection criteria
• Reasons for not being shortlisted for a position where you meet the job requirements
• Being bypassed for a promotion
• Being refused a post or apprenticeship
• Receiving demeaning or inappropriate treatment at interview
Should you wish to contest any of the above, you have to be prepared to go through a complicated process. You'll need to provide written evidence and lodge your grievance within three months of the alleged discrimination taking place. If you believe you’re a victim of discrimination you should immediately seek advice from an expert.
Where can I find out more?
• For more specific advice on any discrimination issues, speak to a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau
• The Equal Opportunities Commission carries information on sexual discrimination and equal pay legislation.
• Stonewall is a government funded charity dedicated to lobbying parliament on gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual equality issues.
• The Commission for Racial Equality website has information on race discrimination legislation including case studies for employees and employers.
- Employment contracts
- Bullying at work
- Sick pay
- Working hours
- Find an IT job
Disclaimer: the information on these pages is provided for your information and reference only. Before making any important decisions regarding your employment or any legal matter, you should consult a qualified professional adviser who can provide specific advice based on your individual position.