Discrimination law exists to make sure that all employees have the same opportunities in the workplace, for the protection of workers' dignity at work and to allow them to make complaints without suffering consequences as a result. The UK's anti-discrimination legislation which regulates the employer-employee relationship is exceptionally robust – if an employee suffers discrimination at work, there is no limit on the amount of damages that can be awarded.

The employment lawyers at Anderton Law have many years of experience acting on behalf of employees who have suffered discrimination at work. 

Speak to one of our discrimination solicitors today to arrange a free initial consultation. Call us on 0207 458 4633 or complete our online contact form

What Is Discrimination at Work?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of ‘protected characteristics'. These characteristics are:

  • Age - see our Age Discrimination guide.
  • Disability - A person has a disability if they suffer from a substantial long term impairment that materially affects their day to day activities. See our Disability Discrimination guide
  • Pregnancy and maternity - see our Pregnancy and Maternity guide.
  • Race 
  • Religion or philosophical belief - this can cover situations such as employees needing time off for worship and the requirement to dress a certain way in accordance with their religion.
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual harassment - see our Sexual Harassment guide.
  • Gender reassignment - This can involve an employee who is transitioning or who has already transitioned from one gender to another.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.

The protection not to be discriminated against applies to all stages in employment including recruitment, promotion and dismissals.

There are different forms of discrimination that can occur in the workplace:

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is when an employer deliberately treats an employee in a less favourable way than other employees as a result of a protected characteristic.

Section 13(1) EqA 2010 defines direct discrimination as follows:

“(1) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

It is necessary to cite a comparator if you are bringing a discrimination claim.  A comparator should be, as far as possible, in a like for like position to the discriminated employee other than that the comparator does not possess the protected characteristic. 

For instance, they may share the same job or be on the same salary.

Example: A man and a woman begin work for an employer, on the same date, in the same job and have the same qualifications and experience.

The man is given a salary £10,000 higher than the woman.

The woman alleges her lower salary is an act of direct sex discrimination.

Burden of Proof

Section 136 Equality Act deal with the burden of proof and states:

“If there are facts from which the court could decide, in the absence of any other explanation, that a person (A) contravened the provision concerned, the court must hold that the contravention occurred."

Whilst an employer should always be challenged if there are discriminatory practices within the workplace it can sometimes be difficult to prove. 

The phrase in the absence of any other explanation is often the employer’s get out jail card.

In the above example, the employer may cite nuanced differences between the man’s experience, competence and job description.

Discrimination by Association

Discrimination by association is when an employee is treated less favourably because they are associated with a person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when an employer puts in place a policy, condition or practice (PCP) that applies to all employees equally, but which puts those who hold a protected characteristic at a disadvantage. 

An employer might be able to defend themselves against a claim involving indirect discrimination if they can show that the policy in question is proportionate.

However, the employer would have to use clear evidence that shows that they have balanced the needs of the company and against the adverse impact that the policy has on the employee.


Harassment is unwanted conduct that is linked to a protected characteristic and violates someone's dignity or creates an offensive environment for them.  

Common examples of harassment include:

  • Racist comments
  • Insensitive comments concerning someone's age
  • Conduct of a sexual nature. This includes all types of communicaion: unwanted advances, text messages, emails.


Victimisation occurs when an employee is treated unfairly or is dismissed because they have made a complaint about discrimination or harassment.

Does my Employer Have A Duty to Protect me From Discrimination?

Your employer has a duty to protect you from all forms of discrimination. There are also required to implement working practices and procedures to resolve any discrimination issues that arise. If they fail to do so, causing you to be discriminated against, then you may be able to claim compensation.

Compensation in discrimination cases

1. Financial loss – this is calculated very similarly to the way in which unfair dismissal compensation is calculated. Financial loss in discrimination cases, however, is subject to the same rules of mitigation.

2. Injury to feelings – if you win a discrimination case you can always claim an injury to feelings award. The case of Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (2002) apply what is known as the Vento Guidelines. The current guidelines are as follows:

  • Band 1 - £900 - £8,800;
  • Band 2 - £8,800 - £26,300;
  • Band 3 - £26,300 - £44,000

3. Personal Injury - Where an employee has been made unwell, most commonly in employment law this would relate to psychiatric damage, it is possible to claim personal injury damages.  

It is necessary for an independent expert to be appointed such as a Psychologist in order for the Tribunal to assess the level of damages. Compensation is assessed according to the JSB Guidelines.

Time Limits

A claim for discrimination has to be made within the statutory time limit. It is necessary to contact ACAS in the first instance and complete an Early Conciliation form within three months minus one day of the last alleged.

Useful Tips if you have been Discriminated Against

  • It is useful to gather as much evidence as possible. 
  • It is also a good idea to keep a diary of things that are occurring to you of a discriminatory nature. 
  • Submitting an internal grievance may assist. It should force the employer to look at the situation in detail.

Contact Our Employment Lawyers 

We provide a no win no fee service for clients who find themselves involved in employment disputes.

Speak to a member of our team today by calling 0207 458 4633 or complete our online enquiry form.

Do you need help? Request a free consultation now.

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Mark Sellek
Solicitor View Mark's Profile

"I am very pleased with the outcome I reached with Mark who represented me at the employment tribunal against a local authority who dismissed me unfairly. My case did not go all the way to a full hearing but a settlement and a guaranteed reference was an outcome I have continued to he happy with. I found him responsive and his arguments well analysed and presented. You also get a sense that he is experienced in supporting clients to put well constructed cases against big organisations. I would contact him if faced with similar issues again therefore I would recommend him to others"

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