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Understanding What Discrimination Is

discrimination is

Understanding What Discrimination Is

Understanding What Discrimination Is

Discrimination is where someone makes unfair or prejudicial distinctions between people based on the classes, groups or other categories. For example, people may be discriminated against based on age, gender, race, age, religion, or sexual orientation, as well as other things. Often, discrimination stems from fear and misunderstanding.

Furthermore, it can be hurtful, embarrassing and negatively impact our mental health. It is vital to open up to others if you have been affected by discrimination.

As an employer, all staff must be protected from all forms of discrimination. With laws to protect employees, it is vital to ensure the correct procedures are in place. As a result, employers failing to protect their staff can lead to costly fines and employment tribunals.

What is the Equality and Diversity Act?

The Equality and Diversity Act is in place to protect people from facing discrimination in the workplace. It is easy to understand and brings 116 pieces of legislation together. It explains the different ways that it is against the law to treat someone. For example:

  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Age

As a result, all of the areas above are protected by the Equality and Diversity Act.


Types of Discrimination

There are 4 main types of discrimination. These include:

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Direct Discrimination 

This is when someone is targeted directly because of a specific reason or characteristic. Furthermore, direct discrimination can be split into three types:

Ordinary Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is when someone is mistreated because of a protected characteristic, such as race or sex. For example, where somebody does not get a promotion because they are a woman. Especially where the job is offered to a man instead who is less qualified.

Discrimination by Association

This type of discrimination is when somebody is discriminated against because of their relationship with someone with at least one protected characteristic.

Discrimination by Perception

This discrimination is when someone is discriminated against due to a perceived protected characteristic. In other words, other people think they have this characteristic, even if that is not the case.

In short, direct discrimination is something that doesn't have to be intentional to be unlawful. Therefore, businesses must be careful as individuals can press charges even if the company was unaware that they were discriminating at the time.

Indirect Discrimination

This type is harder to spot and tends to be unintentional. However, yet again, a business can have charges pressed against them for this.

In short, it is when a rule has been created which applies to everyone. However, it can have a more significant impact on some than it does on others. For example, there may be a job vacancy that requests all applicants have ten years of experience in the sales industry. As a result, this is discrimination against young people as they will not be eligible to apply.


Harassment is unwanted behaviour which someone finds offensive, intimidating or humiliating. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Unwanted behaviour could be spoken, written or be abusive.

Furthermore, harassment is when a person targets someone based on their protective characteristics. As a result, this creates a hostile environment and leaves the individual feeling insulted and offended. For example, physical contact that is inappropriate, verbal and physical threats, unwanted nicknames, and gossip. However, charges can be pressed for harassment even when the individual pushing the charges has not been directly targeted. For instance, if a racist comment was made, anybody that heard it can press charges.


Victimisation is when an individual within the organisation is being treated unfairly due to an action they have previously taken. For instance, reporting an issue to HR that got someone else in trouble. If that other person then treats you differently, this is victimisation and can lead to prosecution.


Bullying is an unacceptable practice in the workplace. However, it may not come into one of the reasons listed in the equality and diversity act. Bullying is like harassment, but you cannot make a legal claim against bullying directly. However, it may be possible to make a complaint under discrimination.

Employers have to deal with bullying at work. Therefore, if you feel like you are being bullied, it is best to talk it over with someone. As a result, the issue may be resolved in an easier way than taking legal action.

If you feel comfortable enough doing so, it may be worth talking to the person doing the bullying. The person may be unaware that they have impacted you, and a simple conversation could resolve the problem. However, it is crucial to remain calm during this conversation.

Some people you could talk to if talking to your bully doesn't work are:

  • The human resource department at your workplace
  • Your supervisor or manager
  • Your trade union

Finally, writing things down as they happen is a great way to remember when you are being treated unfairly. As a result, it will mean that you won't have missed anything, and it is more likely that your issue will be taken seriously if it does come to filing a formal complaint.

How Discrimination Can Make You Feel

Discrimination can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing in a negative way. Often, people who have been victims of discrimination can have trouble talking to others due to embarrassment, being afraid of the backlash they may receive, or simply because they are unsure how to. Therefore, this can lead to a lot of overthinking. However, dwelling on our problems in this way often makes things even worse. The issue builds up to something bigger and can lead to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Therefore, it is vital to seek help, whether this is from a work colleague, friend, family member, or professional.

We are here to support you if you are struggling. Our team of experts are waiting for you, so if you feel you are ready contact us. 


What are the 4 types of discrimination?

  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

What does discrimination feel like?

Discrimination can be hurtful, embarrassing and negatively impact our mental health. It is vital to open up to others if you have been affected by discrimination.

What does discrimination look like in the workplace?

Discrimination in the workplace is when someone has been targeted because of a specific reason or characteristic. Protected characteristics are listed in the equality and diversity act.

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