Employers have a legal duty to ensure that they do not treat an individual less favourably on any grounds related to their age, gender, marital status, disability, race/nationality, sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion. This applies in access to employment, during the employment relationship and after the employment relationship has come to an end. Discrimination can occur in three ways:
- Direct discrimination - Treating a person less favourably on the grounds of their sex/race/sexual orientation/disability/religious belief/political opinion/age, for example, not appointing a female to a job because the preference is for a male.
- Indirect discrimination - Occurs where a provision, criterion or practice is applied, which although equally applied to all, has the effect of disadvantaging a particular group and cannot be justified, for example, rules about clothing or uniforms that disadvantage a racial group and cannot be justified.
- Victimisation - Treating a person less favourably because they have either previously taken action in relation to discrimination, have assisted or been involved in action taken by someone else in relation to discrimination.
Fair treatment is not just a moral and legal right. It makes very good business sense. Employers who treat employees fairly and flexibly will be best placed to recruit and retain staff in an increasingly diverse and competitive labour market.