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An organisation must not treat one person less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic.

For example, if an employer decides not to promote the most suitable candidate to the next management tier because it prefers not to have any more female staff at that level, then this is direct discrimination because of sex.

The protected characteristic age is dealt with differently in that an employer can show that it is objectively justified to make a decision based on a person’s age, even if this would otherwise be direct discrimination. In practice it is very difficult to objectively justify direct age discrimination.

Businesses must ensure that behaviour does not amount to other forms of discrimination, namely:

For information about the protected characteristics and business best practice, return to the discrimination page.

Contact us about promoting equality in the workplace, or if you have suffered discrimination.

For other legal topics go to the law library.

Discrimination areas

Associative discrimination

An employer must not treat a person less favourably because it thinks, incorrectly, that the employee has a ‘protected characteristic‘. This is a type of direct discrimination. For example, in the situation where an employer does not offer a vacancy to the most suitable candidate because in interview they take the view incorrectly that the […]

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Direct discrimination

An organisation must not treat one person less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic. For example, if an employer decides not to promote the most suitable candidate to the next management tier because it prefers not to have any more female staff at that level, then this is direct discrimination because of sex. […]

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Disability discrimination

An employer must not treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected to their disability, unless the employer can show that their action is objectively justified. There is no unlawfulness if the employer does not know or could not reasonably have been expected to know that the person is disabled. Protection is also afforded in […]

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Harassment

An employer must not harass a person. Behaviour will amount to harassment when it is: unwanted behaviour related to the protected characteristics sexual harassment less favourable treatment because of submission to or rejection of previous sex or gender reassignment harassment An employer may also be responsible for harassment of its staff by a third party […]

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Indirect discrimination

An employer must not exercise a provision, criterion or practice (for example making a decision or applying a workplace rule) in relation to a person, which has a worse impact on them and others who share that particular ‘protected characteristic‘, than on people who do not have that characteristic, unless the employer can show that […]

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Perceptive discrimination

An employer must not treat a person less favourably because it thinks, incorrectly, that the employee has a ‘protected characteristic‘. This is a type of direct discrimination. For example, in the situation where an employer does not offer a vacancy to the most suitable candidate because in interview they take the view incorrectly that the […]

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Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments relate to disability discrimination. If the way in which the employer goes about doing things, or if there are physical features in the work environment that put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled, then the employer must take such steps as it is reasonable […]

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Victimisation

An employer must not treat a person less favourably because the person complains of discrimination (whether that’s bringing a legal case or just making an allegation of discrimination), or because they have upheld their equality law rights. For example, if the employer creates an oppressive environment for a person (for instance acting negatively) because they […]

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