Understanding Workplace Discrimination: Protected Characteristics

Written by Calvin
Last updated November 4, 2021

Discrimination is a word that can be defined in many different ways, but it all boils down to the same thing: treating people differently on the basis of one or more of their personal characteristics. Discrimination can come in many different forms, particularly in the workplace. Here we discuss what this looks like, and how workers with Protected Characteristics are protected.

Discrimination happens when employers refuse to hire someone because they are part of a certain group (like race, gender identity, disability status) and fail to take into account an individual’s qualifications for the job. Discrimination also occurs when employers create unequal opportunities for employees based on these protected traits. Discrimination is illegal in the UK, and since 2010 it’s been protected under the Equality Act.

Discrimination happens all too often behind closed doors at companies across Britain, but thankfully there are laws in place to protect those who have been discriminated against. It is against the law in the UK to discriminate against someone due to ‘Protected Characteristics’.

There are nine protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010, which are also sometimes called “protected groups”, and discrimination is often based on being part of one or more of these protected traits.

What are the nine protected characteristics?

Age – Discrimination based on age ranges from refusing to hire employees over a certain age or firing employees because they have reached a certain age.

Race – Discrimination is defined as treating someone differently because of their race, colour or ethnicity. Discrimination can be found in the workplace when an employer refuses to hire a candidate based on their race and this is considered direct discrimination. Discrimination can also occur if there are policies that prevent employees from promoting and advancing within a company due to their racial background which would equate to indirect discrimination.

Gender identity – Discrimination based on an individual’s real or perceived gender, including discrimination against transgender individuals who do not meet stereotyped expectations about how their birth sex should align with their expressed and/or experienced gender.

Religion – Discrimination based on a person’s religious beliefs, including when an employer refuses to hire someone, or fires them because of their religious beliefs. Discrimination can also occur if there are policies that prevent employees from being able to take time off for important events that they need in order to practice their faith

Sexual orientation – Discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, which includes lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Discrimination can occur in the workplace when an employer refuses to hire a candidate due to their sexual orientation or fires them because of it

Disability – Discrimination based on whether someone has a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities. Discrimination at work is illegal in the UK, but it still happens every day. Discrimination can also occur when an employer denies someone access to workplace benefits that are offered to other employees

Pregnancy – Discrimination based on whether a woman is pregnant and treats her differently than others because she has decided to become or is unable to become pregnant for medical reasons. Discrimination can also occur when an employer fires someone because they become pregnant or deny them promotions and raises due to their pregnancy

Gender reassignment – Discrimination based on whether a person is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, including individuals who have transitioned either medically or surgically which would include hormone therapy and/or gender confirmation surgery. Discrimination can occur when an employer denies someone access to workplace benefits that are offered for transitioning employees

Sexual orientation – Discrimination based on whether a person is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Discrimination at work is illegal in the UK, but it still happens every day. Discrimination can also occur if there are policies that prevent employees from being able to take time off for important events that they need in order to practice their faith or when an employer fires them because of it

 

There are many rights and regulations in the UK to protect workers from discrimination in the workplace. To find out more, visit our jobseeker resource hub and sign-up to our newsletter. Also, be sure to visit our diversity jobs board for live opportunities from inclusive employers.

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Last Updated: Friday November 12 2021
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