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Discrimination occurs when an employee is treated differently based on their sex, race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief or disability. Employers also have to ensure that employees who are members of Trade Unions are not treated differently to employees who are not Trade Union members.

There are two forms of discrimination:

Direct Discrimination

This is where an employee or prospective employee is less favourably treated because of one of the above grounds, eg a female candidate with the best qualifications and experience for a promotion is ignored in favour of a less qualified and experienced male worker.

An employer cannot argue it was not their intention to discriminate.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is more complicated and involves three factors:-

  1. If a criterion for a job or term and condition of employment is such that an employee or prospective employee is unable to meet the criteria because of their sex, race, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief or disability, then it may be indirect discrimination. For example a new term and condition of employment that only relates to part-time employees may indirectly discriminate on the basis of sex as more part-time workers are female.
  2. If a criterion for a job or term and condition of employment cannot be justified as a real requirement of the job, ie a candidate who cannot meet the criterion could still do the job as well as anyone else.
  3. Because an employee cannot comply with a criterion, they have actually suffered in some way because of it. An employee cannot complain if they have not lost out in some way.

In some very specific cases, an employer can argue that there may be discrimination, but that it is required for the job, eg a job may require an employee fluent in a specific language, or a single sex swimming club may require attendants of the same sex.

If you are concerned about any area of discrimination or want to check that your employment contracts or terms and conditions of employment are not discriminatory, phone Ashley Hunt,  Carrie-Ann Randall or Vaishali Thakerar on 0116 212 1000 or complete the form on the right. Lawson-West also offer Employment Contract Healthchecks and advice on Changing Terms and Conditions of Employment.