Spotting and Stopping Discrimination in the Workplace

    If you have been treated unfairly at work because of who you are, you may have been discriminated against. Under the Equality Act, discrimination in the workplace is unlawful. The act protects you from being treated unfairly due to the following ‘protected characteristics’:

    • Age
    • Disability
    • Gender reassignment
    • Marriage and civil partnership
    • Pregnancy and maternity
    • Race
    • Religion or belief
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation

    Despite being unlawful, discrimination in the workplace is still severely widespread and thousands of claims for discrimination at work are brought to employment tribunals every year.

    In the following blog post we will focus sex discrimination, age discrimination and disability discrimination. As well as explaining what each of the three types of discrimination entail, we’ll provide examples of the amounts of compensation that are usually awarded in these cases. 

    Sex Discrimination


    What is sex discrimination?

    Sex discrimination applies to all people equally who are discriminated against because they are:
    • Male or female
    • Associated with someone who is male or female
    • Perceived – either correctly or incorrectly – to be male or female
    • Subjected to behaviour or comments they find offensive
    Despite societal progress in terms of gender diversity in the past few decades, sex discrimination in the workplace is an all too common reality for many people in the UK.

    Examples of Sex Discrimination

    An example of a high-profile sex discrimination case made the national news this week when after the Court of Appeal upheld a decision which saw an ex BAE employee awarded £360,178 in compensation. After complaining that she had been bullied and harassed in the workplace, Mrs Konczak, the claimant, was told that “women take things more emotionally than men, whilst men tend to forget things and move on.” The ensuing employment tribunal ordered BAE systems to award Konczak £360,178 in compensation for the sex discrimination that she experienced.

    How much compensation is awarded for sex discrimination?

    The mean average award for sex discrimination in the workplace in 2015/16 was £85,622. The highest amount awarded £1,762,130.

    Age Discrimination

    What is age discrimination?

    The Equality Act protects people from being discriminated against at work because of their age. This applies to mistreatment for being old and young equally.

    Age discrimination in the workplace can be broken down into four main types:

    Direct discrimination

    This involves treating somebody differently because of:

    • Their age
    • Their perceived age
    • The age of someone with whom they associate
    • Indirect Discrimination

    This can occur when a workplace policy, rule or practice applies to everybody but disproportionately disadvantages people of a certain age. E.g. requiring employees to have 10 years of industry experience could be perceived as discriminating against young people.


    This involves creating a hostile working environment, or conduct that humiliates or causes offence to an employee because of their age.


    Unfair treatment of an employee who has made a complaint about age discrimination in the workplace.

    How much compensation is awarded for age discrimination?

    In 2015/16 the mean average award for age discrimination was £9,025. The highest amount awarded was £16,263.

    Disability Discrimination

    Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees due to a mental or physical disability.

    The Equality Act defines disability as the following:

    ‘A person is disabled if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment’ which has ‘a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on their ‘ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’

    As with age discrimination, disability discrimination in the workplace can be broken down into four distinct types:

    Direct discrimination

    This is when a person is treated less favourably because of their disability, a perceived disability or their association with someone who is disabled.

    Indirect discrimination

    This is where a workplace rule or practice particularly disadvantages a person with a disability.


    When a person is the victim of conduct that humiliates, offends or causes distress due to their disability.


    Treating somebody differently after complaining about disability discrimination.

    How much compensation is awarded for disability discrimination?

    The mean average ward for disability discrimination in 2015/16 was £21,729. The highest amount award was £257,127.

    What to do about discrimination in the workplace

    Whether you are an employee who has been the victim of discrimination in the workplace, or an employer who wishes to prevent it, a specialist employment solicitor can help.

    Post your requirements on LawBid and connect with Employment specialists across the UK.

    Employment figures from:

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