I think my employer is discriminating against me. What can I do?

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from suffering discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic, i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/ civil partnership, pregnancy/ maternity, race, religion/ belief, sex or sexual orientation. The Trade Union Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 protects you from suffering negative treatment on the basis of your union membership.

Your immediate course of action will depend on who it is you believe is acting in a discriminatory way towards you.

If it is your immediate manager or supervisor, you should approach the next level of management. If it is a fellow worker or another manager, you should raise your concerns with your immediate line manager.

If things don’t improve, you should follow your organisation's grievance procedure. Your organisation may also have a separate procedure in place to deal with allegations of bullying or harassment. It may also have a helpline you can use. Some unions also offer a hotline you can use to access help and support.

You have a legal right to be accompanied by a work colleague or a trade union official to the hearing of your grievance. You will need to support your concerns by providing specific instances of where you feel such discrimination has taken place, so you should keep a record of examples including when they occurred. If the discrimination has taken place online, print off copies of any emails or online postings and keep a record of any texts.

If you can’t sort things out with your employer, you can present a discrimination claim to an employment tribunal, but you must do this within the specified time limits. If you have raised the issue on several occasions but the discrimination persisted uninterrupted (i.e. continuously over a certain period), the time limits will begin from the date of your last complaint. These issues are complicated. You must take proper legal advice as soon as possible.

The time limits for bringing a tribunal claim are very short – normally just three months.

The first step in any tribunal claim is to submit an Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form to Acas. This first step is compulsory. You cannot bring your tribunal claim without having taken it. You can find information from Acas about early conciliation here. Acas early conciliation is free. You must submit the form to Acas within the three-month time limit for your claim.

Browse our section on Enforcing your Rights for more information on early conciliation and bringing a tribunal claim.

Time limits in the employment tribunal are strict. If you are too late in bringing your claim, the tribunal is unlikely to consider it.

Often, tackling an issue collectively will be a more effective way forward than trying to tackle it on your own. This could be the case, for example, where there is a pattern of discriminatory behaviour by one boss, where a culture of low-level harassment has developed where you work, or where your employer decides to impose a discriminatory policy that affects everyone, not just you. If you are a union member, speak to your rep to see what can be done and how best to organise.

If you are not a union member, browse our Union Finder page to find the union most suited to your needs.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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