What you can do - Witnessing discrimination

What you can do

If you think someone at work is being discriminated against, there are actions you can take.

You might feel able to step in and try to stop the discrimination happening, if you feel it's safe to do so.

Depending on the circumstances, other actions you can take are:

  • offering emotional or practical support to the person who's been affected
  • supporting a complaint made by the person who was discriminated against
  • reporting what you've seen
  • giving evidence as a witness, for example at a hearing
  • making a harassment complaint yourself

The types of discrimination you might witness include direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation – find out more about discrimination.

Deciding what to do

What you decide to do will depend on:

  • your own view of what's happened
  • what the person who's been discriminated against would like to happen next

You should talk to the person who's experienced the discrimination to see if they want your support or they want you to report it.

You might also want to talk with someone else to get advice and support about what to do. This could be:

  • someone you trust at work, for example someone you work with or a manager
  • a trade union representative, if you're a member
  • someone at work who's been trained to advise people who are considering making this kind of complaint

Making a note of what's happened

Whatever you decide to do, you should make a note of what you've witnessed or the discrimination you think has taken place. This should include:

  • what happened
  • dates and times
  • names, including any other witnesses

Making a note can be especially helpful if you would find talking about the experience distressing.

If you decide to report it

You need to make your own decision about whether to report the discrimination to someone else in your organisation.

You should take into account the wishes of the person who was discriminated against.

If you decide to report it, talk with your manager, HR or someone senior at work. You should tell them:

  • what you witnessed
  • who was involved
  • any conversations you've had with the people involved

Making a harassment complaint yourself

If you've witnessed discrimination directed at someone else, it might also affect you personally.

If you have been affected, you might have experienced a form of discrimination called harassment.

You can make a complaint if what you've seen or heard has:

  • violated your dignity
  • created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you

Find out more about:

What your employer should do

Your employer should:

  • take your report or complaint seriously
  • handle it fairly and sensitively
  • look into it as soon as possible

Find out how employers should handle a discrimination complaint

Get more advice and support

For help and advice, you can:

If you're struggling to cope and need someone to talk to, you can contact:

  • Samaritans
  • an employee assistance programme (EAP) if your employer has one
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