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What to do about discrimination at work

John Martin
September 6, 2022

A recent report from the TUC union highlights the prevalence of racial discrimination that remains in the workplace in 2022. The report shows that two in five black and minority ethnic (BAME) workers have experienced racism in the last five years and it caused 8% to leave their jobs.

HMRC reports that women are still paid less than men on average with the gender pay gap actually increasing by 2.9% between 2020 and 2021.

Some big steps forward have been taken in terms of workplace discrimination, but these reports tell us we're not at our destination just yet.

What is workplace discrimination?

According to ACAS, discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Although discrimination in the workplace is illegal, more than a third of adults in the UK say they have experienced it.

Workplace discrimination can take on several different forms. It might be direct - for example you’re not offered a job because you’re a woman and it goes to a less qualified man - or it might be indirect discrimination. This is when rules apply to all employees but in practice they’re less fair to a certain protected characteristic.

What can you do if you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace?

If you feel like you are being discriminated against at work, the best place to start is an honest and open discussion with your manager. If that doesn’t work, arrange a meeting with your HR department, or submit something in writing to them, making clear what you think has happened and what actions you would like them to take.

Save any message that you feel are discriminatory and keep a written note of the incidents with dates and times.

If making an informal complaint doesn’t work, check your company’s formal complaints procedure, if they have one, and follow that.

Alternatively you can ask ACAS for advice or, if you are in a union, approach a trade union representative.

If all else fails, it might be time to look into legal action and make a claim at an employee tribunal.

To contact Citizens Advice, call 0800 144 8848 in England and 0800 702 2020 in Wales.