When an employer may make a decision based on age, race or another protected characteristic

Having a good business reason to discriminate

An employer might be able discriminate and stay within the law, if they can prove a good business reason ('objective justification'). 

It's a good idea to get legal advice before making a decision that relates to a protected characteristic.

Under the law, objective justification might only be legal in the following circumstances:

The employer must be able to prove both of the following:

  • there's a good business reason behind the discrimination
  • the discrimination is 'proportionate, appropriate and necessary' – this means their business need is more important than any discriminatory impact on affected employees

Financial reasons alone are unlikely to justify discrimination. 

The more the action discriminates, the more difficult it is for an employer to prove it's within the law.

An employer should always check whether there's an alternative they can take that does not discriminate, or discriminates less.

Examples of objective justification

Example 1
A surgeon has a medical condition that means they’re already losing their eyesight and it will not return. Because of this, their employer will no longer allow them to do operations. 
Example 2
A job advert for a firefighter says applicants need to be at least 18 years old, so they’re physically mature enough to train for the work required.