Discrimination in the workplace is never acceptable and, moreover, may in certain instances be unlawful. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work, our dedicated employment team can guide you through your options for dealing with this. One thing is certain: you should never suffer in silence.

The legal definition of unlawful discrimination

Discriminating against a person is unlawful if it is in connection with a ‘protected characteristic’. These characteristics are set out in the Equality Act 2010:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership

Discrimination at work may be related to:

  • Dismissal
  • Redundancy
  • Recruitment
  • Employment terms and conditions
  • Pay and benefits
  • Promotion and transfer opportunities
  • Training

The important thing to note is that anyone with or connected to a protected characteristics is protected in law. and in the context of employment a person is protected from unlawful discrimination from the initial stage of job application to the end of employment.

For example, a job candidate whose application is rejected because they have an Asian sounding name is subject to unlawful discrimination and is entitled to legal redress. Likewise bullying a person in the workplace because of their age is also unlawful. If someone is provided with an unfavourable reference because they had alleged an unlawful discrimination whilst in work, they too are entitled to legal redress even though they have left the employment.


What are the different types of discrimination?

Unlawful discrimination in the workplace can occur in different forms:

Direct Discrimination

Indirect Discrimination




Challenging unlawful discrimination

Most complaints of discrimination are handled internally first, normally by your manager, supported by a HR function if one is available. The ACAS Code of Practice – Discipline & Grievance In The Workplace, sets out the basic procedural steps that should be incorporated into any workplace disciplinary and grievance procedures. The purpose behind this Code is to ensure that basic standards of fairness are adhered to within these procedures. Although failure to follow the Code does not give rise to a legal claim in of itself, if the matter ends up before the Employment Tribunal, the Tribunal can adjust any award by up to 25% for an unreasonably failure to comply with the provisions of the Code.

If the internal procedures are unsuccessful, the next possible stage is ACAS early conciliation (ACAS being the public body tasked with helping employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations). The purpose behind ACAS early conciliation is to help the parties resolve their dispute without recourse to legal proceedings. The early conciliation can be triggered by either you or the employer, however once early conciliation has commenced, there is no obligation on either party to participate in the process. If no resolution is reached at that stage, you then have the option of taking your case before an employment tribunal.

It is important to note that employment tribunal proceedings can be brought even while you are still employed.

Time Limits

When should I instruct a solicitor?

You can instruct a solicitor at any point in this process, even at the very early stages such as:

  • Advise you on the strength of your legal position, which is useful to know when negotiating with your employer.
  • Advise you on what evidence you may need to gather.
  • Advise you on time limits
  • Accompany you to meetings with your employer – although during internal discussions your employer can refuse to agree to this.
  • Assist you with ACAS early conciliation and/or mediation.

At the later stages in the process, a solicitor can represent you at employment tribunal hearings and/or help you to negotiate a fair settlement with your employer.

Contact our Discrimination Lawyers in Liverpool, Wirral and Merseyside Today

We understand how frustrating and unfair discrimination can feel, especially when your livelihood may be at stake. Our dedicated and experienced team of Empoyment Lawyers can help you navigate this difficult time with minimal stress and confusion. Call us today on 0151 659 1070 or get in touch by completing our online enquiry form.

What about if my discrimination is not connected to a protected characteristic?

If you are being discriminated and it doesn’t appear that it is connected to a protected characteristic, your complaint may still entitle you to legal redress. Therefore it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible, and not suffer in silence.

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