Thousands of people across the globe experience discrimination at work every year, so it’s important to know what to do if it happens to you.
To discriminate against someone means to treat them unfairly because of who they are or because of a specific characteristic that they possess.
Although discrimination is against the law, reporting it isn’t always easy. Proving your claim can be difficult and there can be a range of different emotions involved.
Nonetheless, the only way to make progress in tackling discrimination is to speak up and take action. But first, it can help to find out as much as you can about the best way to do this.
First, it’s important to check whether your problem would be classed as discrimination under the law. In the UK, there’s a wide range of characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010.
This means that it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age, race, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or belief. Citizens Advice has some helpful information on protected characteristics.
Once you’ve confirmed that the way you were treated was unlawful, the next step is to gather as much evidence as you can about the incident that took place. You’ll need to write down the name and job title of the person or people who treated you unfairly, what they did, and where it happened.
At this stage, it’s important to try and remove emotion from the situation and try to focus on facts alone. Your claim cannot be based solely on a feeling or assumption – it must be based on concrete evidence. Have a read of this guide from Citizens Advice on how to document discrimination at work.
Not all discrimination is intentional or conscious, so it can help to try and resolve things with your employer informally first. Arrange a time to speak to your manager privately, then explain what happened and ask what can be done about it.
You can check out the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) guide on how to raise a problem at work for help with this. The hope is that your manager will try to work with you to resolve the issue. If they don’t, then you can escalate things further.
If you cannot resolve things informally with your employer, then the next step is to ‘raise a grievance’ – otherwise known as making a formal complaint. Employers will often have set procedures that they will follow when a grievance is made, or sometimes not.
Either way, it’s important to make sure that they are following the guidance set out in the Acas formal grievance guide and in the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Sometimes issues between employers and employees cannot be resolved without outside help. For example, your employer might retaliate or ignore your complaint.
If this happens, then you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal who will hear from both you and your employer and decide on the best solution.
You can find out how to make a claim on the Acas website. If you’re a member of a trade union, then it’s also worth getting in touch and seeing whether they can help.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) is an independent public body that receives funding from the UK government, and works to improve workplace relationships. They have a helpline (0300 123 1100) which is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Citizens Advice have plenty of resources that can help you work out whether you’re being discriminated against in the workplace, and advise you on how to gather evidence and take action if you are.
The Equality Advisory and Support Service deals with human rights issues across England, Scotland, and Wales. You can contact them by email, live chat or phone.
Although difficult, standing up for yourself is the best thing you can do if you find yourself being treated unfairly at work.
Discrimination is wrong, and no one should ever make you feel guilty for highlighting that and fighting for positive change. Finding your voice can take strength and courage, but it’s the most important thing that you can do.
Have you experienced discrimination in your workplace? Were you able to resolve the issue? How did you approach it? Did you find any helpful resources that guided you how to take action? Please share your experience below.