Discriminatory behaviours that employers should be aware of ❌

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Discrimination has been prevalent in our society since the beginning of time.

This is one of the major problems employees face in the workplace.

This unfair practice against individuals and groups is a prime cause of demotivation.

It does not only hurt employees psychologically.

Discrimination also has an ill impact on their productivity.

It was not much of an issue in previous times.

Discrimination has always lurked in almost all companies. But not many people were aware of this term.

This unlawful practice has never been talked about so much as it is now.

Today’s employees are brave enough to spot any ill behaviour done towards them.

They no more, succumb to the situation by maintaining a stoic silence.

All thanks to the UK Equality Act 2010, setting firm boundaries for employers.

UK Equality Act 2010

The UK Equality Act 2010 replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations.

It sets out 9 different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone:

– Age

– Disability

– Race

– Religion or belief

– Gender reassignment

– Pregnancy & maternity

– Marriage & civil partnership

– Sexual orientation

– Sex

These characteristics of the employees shall never be triggered by employers.

Done knowingly or unknowingly, employers who discriminate by any one of the above ways will be held responsible for discriminatory practices.

But employers may not be penalized for unintentional triggering.

The formal name given to unintentional discrimination is vicarious liability.

Employers might be set free from this without any charges. That is, only by proving evidence that they tried their best not to harm any staff with their policies and that the steps taken by them were the only way out for the betterment of the company.

While there are ways of escape, employers should still be extremely careful.

Here are the four discriminatory behaviours that are best avoided:

Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?

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Check out our video below for some helpful tips and guidance from Give a Grad a Go and leading industry experts:

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Types of discriminatory behaviours in the workplace

  • Direct discrimination is done by triggering one or more of the protected characteristics.

    An individual or group can be affected because of this.

    The three forms of direct discrimination are:

    1.  Ordinary direct discrimination – Behaving differently to an individual or group in the workplace. This behaviour might not be for everyone and specifically hurt the contrastingly treated person(s). Employers can be charged with this offence only if proven guilty.


    2. Discrimination by Association – When a staff member is treated distinctly due to their relationship with someone with protected characteristics.


    3.  Discrimination by Perception – This occurs when employees are treated differently because of presumably having protected characteristics. It is entirely based on assumptions. The employees might not even bear the characteristic they are being triggered for.

    Direct discrimination can be held offensive regardless of the employer’s true intentions.

    Employees facing this can claim their rights at any time.

  • Indirect discrimination can also be termed to be ‘mild’ and is often not done knowingly by employers.

    Indirect discrimination can take place due to the new policies of a company. Such policies might naturally not be in favour of the protected groups. There may be no ill intention of harming them whatsoever.

    Indirect discrimination can occur for the following four reasons:

    1. The policies put forward are meant for everyone to follow. However, some individuals of the protected characteristics are exempted from it.

    2. The policies are not in favour of the protected group, but beneficial for the rest.

    3. The company rules may cause trouble for the protected group. Now or in the future.

    4. The employer fails to show concrete reasons for following the unjust policy.

    The Equality Act does not, however, outline the policies in detail. Indirect discrimination can be either formal or informal. The affected employees are encouraged to raise their voices anyhow.

  • This is the worst kind of discrimination that can be done to anyone.

    Harassment is an entirely intentional practice.

    It can be a way of letting out the frustration on other employees, or, it can also be done to belittle the employees.

    Either way, harassment should not be supported or tolerated.

    The word is big enough for people to think of it as a major offence.

    It surely is, but people are unaware that it does not take much to harass anyone.

    Here are simple, daily deeds that might affect employees gravely:

    • Gossips and spread of rumours
    • Mocking employees by calling them names
    • Asking questions that point out their protected characteristics
    • Humiliating individuals or groups with insulting jokes
    • Making inappropriate requests referring to ones protected characteristics
    • Unwanted physical contact
    • Public display of hurtful images or information
    • Use of offensive language – penned or verbal
    • Posing threats or acts affecting one’s security and welfare

    Harassment issues should be met legally as soon as possible.

    Employees, who are witnesses but not a part of it, should also step forward.

    Addressing this offensive practice by punishing the guilty is vital. It is not a subject to be taken lightly.

  • Speaking up comes at a price.

    Victimisation is often done to employees who have taken action.

    This action might be against the company or one of its personnel.

    It might occur for an employee’s righteous deed, which fails to benefit the employer or the firm.

    This is also a form of discrimination that should be brought under the limelight.

    All in all, discriminations of all sorts should be fought against, bravely.

    Be it mild or offensive; none should be ignored.

Where to report discrimination?

If you are a victim or even just a witness to workplace discrimination, you can complain directly to the person or seniority of your organisation.

You can also contact mediation services and dispute resolution centres for help and guidance. Or contact an employment solicitor to get the best legal advice.

Author: Gunjan Shayma

Diversity and inclusion resources

If you would like to find out more ways you can address discrimination in the workplace, read our employer and graduate resources below:

Bridging the digital skills gap in the workplace

What is diversity in the workplace?

Job hunting tips with a disability

Addressing graduate salary inequality

Women with careers in STEM


It’s important for employers to keep in mind the Equality Act of 2010, so that your employees feel safe and supported and that you can spot any signs of discrimination in your workplace and act accordingly.

For further information and guidance on eqaulity in the workplace, visit Gov.UK.


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