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.

When discrimination legislation applies

This applies during recruitment and selection, throughout 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 something is equally applied to all but has the effect of disadvantaging a particular group and cannot be justified, for example, rules about clothing or uniforms that aren’t necessary and disadvantage a racial group.


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.

More than a moral and legal right

Fair treatment is not just a moral and legal right.  It makes 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.

Last updated: 03 June 2019