Discrimination at work can take many different forms and it is now an extremely complex and constantly changing area of Employment Law.

Discrimination at work can occur even during the recruitment process as well as throughout a period of employment.

Discrimination usually falls into one of the following categories:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion

Victimisation can also arise where an Employee complains about alleged discrimination and is then treated less favourably for having done so.

Discrimination can be:

  • Direct – when a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of a personal characteristic such as their age, a disability they have, their race or religion, or their gender or sexual orientation. For example, if a female Employee is sexually harassed by a male Manager.
  • Indirect – where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put people of one sex/race/religion etc at a particular disadvantage compared with persons of a different sex/race/religion etc. For example, if one of the requirements for a job is that the Applicant must be over 6 feet tall, which could eliminate most female Applicants. If such a provision or requirement can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim it may be reasonable

An Employee has a maximum period of 3 months from the date of the most recent act of discrimination against them to make a claim in an Employment Tribunal. This is regardless of any internal Grievance or Disciplinary Procedures that are ongoing.


Awards for Discrimination often attract massive media coverage because there is no upper limit on how much can be awarded. In such cases there is also an additional award for injury to feelings.

There are therefore 2 elements to the overall Award:

  • a calculation of financial loss and
  • the hurt to the Employee’s feelings

Awards for injury to feelings are generally considered in three bands

  • The top band should normally be £18,000 – £30,000 appropriate for the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment
  • The middle band should be £6,000 – £18,000 for serious cases which do not merit an award in the highest band
  • The lowest band covers Awards of £500 – £6,000 made in less serious cases, such as where the act of discrimination is an isolated or one-off incident

In exceptional Cases there have been amounts awarded beyond what is recommended in the above Guidelines in cases where the discrimination was deemed to have been carried out “with malice and bad intentions.”