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 their action is objectively justified.
Indirect discrimination against pregnant women and women on maternity leave are dealt with as indirect sex discrimination.
For example, if an employer imposes a uniform requirement stating that employees may not wear anything on their heads then this would indirectly discriminate because of religion or belief in so far as it affects turban-wearing Sikh men.
The test for objectively justifying indirect discrimination is whether the provision, criterion or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
In another example, an employer that promotes a condition that job applicants should be clean-shaven might be justified if the job involved handling food and if it were to be shown that having a beard was a genuine hygiene risk.
The law also protects individuals from:
- direct discrimination
- associative discrimination
- perceptive discrimination
- disability discrimination
- a failure to make reasonable adjustments
For the protected characteristics (of age, disability, race etc) 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.