loading icon

UK discrimination laws identify nine specific characteristics that it’s illegal to discriminate on the grounds of: age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy, disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

It’s important to know that even if an employee doesn’t personally have one of these characteristics, they can still say they were discriminated against. This makes it tricky for employers to always know when they might be discriminating. 

Here are some examples to be mindful of:

  • Perceived Discrimination: This happens if an employer wrongly thinks an employee has one of these characteristics and treats them unfairly because of it.
  • Victimisation: If an employee feels they’ve been treated badly because they supported a colleague’s complaint about discrimination, they may have a claim for victimisation even if they do not have the protected characteristic themselves.
  • Discrimination by association: This happens when someone is treated less favourably because they are associated with someone with a protected characteristic. This can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination means treating them less favourably because of the person they’re associated with. Indirect discrimination means having a rule that puts them at a disadvantage because of this association. However, if the employer has a really good reason for the rule, it might be okay. This type of discrimination is often seen in cases related to disability.

The case of Follows v Nationwide Building Society is a good example of associative discrimination. The respondent had a rule against full-time work from home, which was difficult for the claimant as she cared for a disabled person. Because the respondent couldn’t justify the rule, they ended up having to pay the claimant over £345,000 in compensation for this and her other claims. This case shows how important it is for employers to think carefully about their policies and how they might affect their employees.

Find out how we can help.  Our partner, Jon Dunkley, heads the Wollens specialist Employment Department.  Contact him today for an informal chat, without obligation on 01271 342268 or via email at [email protected].