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Spotting Discrimination In The Workplace

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The word discrimination is thrown around frequently, and people are quick to pick up on it whenever they assume some sort of unfairness. There are various rules implemented to ensure that discrimination is reduced as much as possible, and people are given an equal chance at everything.

What Really Is Discrimination?

Discrimination essentially means the ill-treatment of a person or persons based on their specific traits. For example, some prominent areas of intolerance are race, religion, and colour. Unfortunately, there’s no way to eradicate it entirely, so leaders in the workplace need to be vigilant and quick to act.

Therefore companies are tasked with identifying where it exists and removing it before it damaging the reputation of their business and staff.

All leaders need to negate any kind of behaviours that prove to be unjust and unfair, and they too should also ensure they’re not showing bias or favouritism with staff and the during the recruitment process.

Management and leaders need to know how to identify any sort of discrimination or bias. Don’t rely on their current knowledge and perception. Train your leaders to spot the different types of discrimination present and the steps to eradicate them.

The Equality Act 2010 identifies four main types of discrimination that occur in a workplace, including approaches that are direct and indirect, plus harassment, and victimization. This intolerance can be extended to 7 to 8 different types, including the following:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender and gender reassignment
  • marital status including civil partner
  • religion
  • nation
  • colour

Unfortunately, being mistreated is due to several factors: jealousy, ignorance, brainwashing, and a desire to belong to a particular group of people.

While knowing about the different areas of discrimination is essential, you must also know how to spot bias at your workplace. Let’s look at how you can identify the different kinds of discrimination.

Direct and Indirect Discrimination

Direct prejudice happens when a person is treated unfavourably or unfairly because of their protected characteristics. These can be based on a person’s race or religion. It is known as discrimination based on the association of a particular trait. It can be easily detected in the workplace as people generally have an apparent behaviour against others of different races or religions.

Indirect discrimination is relatively difficult to detect as it might not be done on purpose. Often, indirect discrimination occurs because of a person’s lack of understanding of the law.

Age Bias

People continue with their work even after they surpass the age of 50, which leaves room for age discrimination. The wider the gap between co-workers, the higher chances of bias. It can be either from the higher or lower end. The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from unfair treatment because of age and harassment.


People who “appear” different from the rest are more susceptible to being discriminated against. This includes people with mental and physical disabilities. It is easy to identify any sort of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and the Equality Act 2010 protects such individuals from the main four types of discrimination mentioned above.

Gender Reassignment

People who change their genders or are in the process of changing their genders are susceptible to different forms of discrimination. Non-binary identities aren’t mentioned in the Equality Act 2010, but it is crucial to ensure they aren’t discriminated against at your workplace.

Marriage and Civil Partner

Married couples, whether of the same or opposite genders, have the same rights. Not recruiting people based on their marital status is considered direct discrimination, and putting married people at a disadvantage is deemed indirect discrimination.


Harassment comes in all sorts of shapes and can be detected relatively quickly at a workplace. It constitutes bullying, inappropriate name-calling, and abuse of all forms. It extends to any unwanted behaviour by a person because of protected characteristics or any unfavourable sexual advances. These can be identified as people wanting to make others feel degraded, intimidated, or humiliated. It is based on the perception of the victim and what they think and not the harasser.


Victimization occurs at a workplace when an employee is put at a disadvantage, harm, or loss because of supporting discrimination complaints, allegations, or any other form of action that might jeopardize the higher authority. The mere idea of wanting to invest or providing evidence to a discrimination case can lead to victimization.


Discrimination is driven by emotion, and when it’s been left to grow, it’s caused mass conflict and wars. In the workplace, the onus is on the business owners and leadership teams to identify it and remove it with strategies that foster good working relationships.

HR is the department tasked with staff training on the code of conduct and the company’s best practices for equality and equal opportunities in the workplace. There will always be prejudices, so how we deal with them in the workplace is fundamental to maintaining a good business culture.

Want to read more on a similar topic? See managing conflicts while remote working.

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