The definition of discrimination

Discrimination means treating one person or a group of people less favourably than others – the promotion of equality means treating all people equally. The table below shows the different types of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Attributes that come under the legislation are referred to as ‘protected characteristics’, which are:

• age

• disability

• gender reassignment

• marriage and civil partnerships

• pregnancy and maternity

• race

• religion or belief

• sex

• sexual orientation.

An important point to note is that the employer is usually held responsible for the actions of employees. Employers need to show that they have done all that is reasonably practicable to ensure discrimination does not take place, such as ensuring training is carried out for all employees, and induction and general diversity policies clearly cover the organisation’s approach. In certain circumstances individuals can be held liable for their discriminatory actions.

In February 2014 the Court of Appeal ruled that victimisation can occur after an employee has left employment. The case involved an employee who had brought an age discrimination case and was given a bad reference for bringing the case. Once again, this highlights the importance of taking care when giving references (see article 90).