Discrimination law has grown and grown over the years both in terms of the categories of persons protected by the laws and also the grounds upon which claims may be brought.
Claims for discrimination may be based upon gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, maternity/pregnancy, marriage or civil partnerships and gender reassignment.
The Equality Act 2010 is designed to clarify the different types of discrimination claim and the different heads of claim one can bring in each type of discrimination. There are some differences though, particularly relating to disability discrimination. Typically, discrimination may be direct, i.e. someone is treated less favourably specifically because of the particular characteristic applying to them, for example: their age or race. However, discrimination can be more subtle and known as “indirect discrimination”. This applies when an employer imposes a policy or practice which applies across the organisation but which is more difficult for someone who has the particular protected characteristic to comply with, for example: it may typically be more difficult for women who tend to have more childcare responsibilities to agree to a new shift working system.
Employees don’t need any particular length of service to be able to bring a claim and, indeed, don’t necessarily need to be employed at all. Discrimination law is one of the most complex parts of employment law and both employers and employees commonly require assistance either in terms of preventing discrimination or in fighting claims when discrimination is alleged to have occurred.