It may be discrimination if you think you're being treated unfairly because of any of these 'protected characteristics':
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
If you believe you've experienced discrimination at work, you can make a complaint to your employer.
It's best to make a complaint as soon as possible. But if you make a complaint a long time after an incident took place, your employer should still take it seriously.
If your employer has a specific policy for making discrimination complaints, you should follow that policy.
Discrimination law (Equality Act 2010) protects people against discrimination at work. There are different types of discrimination, including harassment and victimisation.
Understanding the type of discrimination you might have experienced will help you find the best way to resolve it.
Keeping a record
It's a good idea to keep a diary or record of what's happened, including:
- what happened
- how it made you feel
- dates and times it happened
- any evidence, for example emails or screenshots of social media posts
- any witnesses
Keeping a record can be especially helpful if you find talking about the experience particularly distressing.
Raising the problem informally
It's usually best to raise the problem informally first. You can do this with your manager, HR or someone senior from work. Informal resolution is usually quicker and less stressful for everyone.
Not every situation will be suitable for informal resolution.
Raising the problem formally
You can raise a grievance if:
- you've already tried to resolve things informally but it did not work
- you feel the situation is too serious to be resolved informally
- your employer has asked you to raise the problem formally, because they feel the matter is very serious
Raising a grievance is where you make a formal complaint to your employer.
Your employer might encourage you to try informal resolution first, if you have not done that already. However, they should allow you to raise a problem formally if that's what you want. If you cannot agree on an approach together, your employer should deal with it formally.
Using a question and answer process
If you believe you have been discriminated against, it can be a good idea to use a question and answer process. This includes sending your employer a statement explaining what happened and asking them any questions you might have.
You can do this at any time, whether you're raising the problem informally or formally.
What your employer should do
Your employer should take your discrimination complaint seriously and look into it as soon as possible.
If the problem is not resolved
If you make a formal complaint and this does not resolve the problem, you can consider making a claim to an employment tribunal.
There are strict time limits for making a claim. In most cases, you have 3 months minus 1 day from the date the discrimination happened. If the time limit has passed, you can still make a claim to an employment tribunal. It's up to the judge to decide whether they will accept your claim.
You can make a discrimination claim regardless of your employment status or how long you've worked for your employer.
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Get more advice and support
Help and support is available for anyone affected by discrimination.
Support through work
Depending on what's available at your work, this might include:
- counselling or mental health support through an employee assistance programme (EAP)
- someone who's been trained to advise people who are considering making a discrimination complaint
- staff support networks – for example a disability network
To help you understand your rights and options, you can:
- contact the Acas helpline
- contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS)
- talk to your trade union, if you have one
If you're struggling to cope and need someone to talk to, you can contact: