Unfair treatment at work

If you feel that you are receiving unfair treatment at work, it can be a stressful and confusing time. However, you are not alone. Our employment law solicitors have helped many people, and we can provide the help and advice you need to resolve issues quickly.

Unfair treatment at work

What are the signs of unfair treatment at work?

Examples of unfair treatment at work include:

  • Not offering somebody a job because of their sexual orientation.
  • Overlooking an employee for promotion without good reason.
  • Demoting, transferring, or dismissing an employee without following a fair legal process.
  • Making offensive jokes and passing them off as ‘friendly banter’.
  • Making an employee’s life so difficult they want to leave their job.
  • Failing to take reasonable steps to help an employee with a disability.

This list is not exhaustive. Unfair treatment at work is when an employee is treated more unfavourably than other employees.

How does the law protect you from unfair treatment at work?

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination at work. People cannot be treated unfavourably because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

You cannot be treated unfairly because somebody perceives that you have a protected characteristic, but you do not. You can also not be treated unfairly because you are the friend or relative of somebody with a protected characteristic, or you have challenged your employer about discrimination.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides protection rights for employees. These protections relate to unfair dismissal, termination of employment, redundancy rights, time off for parenting, the right to request flexible working hours, protection of wages, Sunday working hours and more.

By law, you cannot be dismissed from your job for any of the following reasons:

  • You are pregnant, or you are on maternity leave.
  • You have requested parental leave.
  • You are a member of a trade union.
  • You have taken part in industrial action lasting 12 weeks or less.
  • You have requested a legal right, such as to be paid the minimum wage.
  • You have ‘blown the whistle’ (which means you have reported a criminal act or a serious health & safety breach at work).

If you feel you have no choice but to leave your job because of something that has happened at work, you may be able to claim compensation for ‘constructive unfair dismissal’.

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How do you know if a company’s recruitment process is unfair?

In most circumstances, job advertisements and interview questions must not ask candidates questions relating to protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010. Questions about age, gender, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, for example, are generally not acceptable. 

The exceptions to this are:

  • Asking about disability so ‘reasonable adjustments’ can be made to help a person do their job.
  • Asking somebody’s date of birth because they need to be a certain age to do a job. For example, you need to be 18 years old to sell alcohol.
  • Asking about a protected characteristic because it is important for a job role, such as a church wanting to hire a priest with a particular religion.

In most areas of employment (with the notable exception of schools and colleges), you do not have to tell a prospective employer if you have spent criminal convictions. If the employer does know about these convictions, they cannot treat you unfavourably as a result.

If you believe a business recruitment process is unfair, please talk to our solicitors who can advise you about your options.

What can you do if you are being unfairly treated at work?

It is usually best to raise your grievance informally with your employer by talking to them. Sometimes people are unaware of their behaviour's impact on others, and simply drawing it to their attention can resolve the issue.

If an informal discussion does not work, the next step is to follow your employer’s formal grievance procedure. Our solicitors can help you write a grievance letter detailing the reasons why you believe unfair treatment has taken place and what action you want your employer to take.

Where a satisfactory outcome is not reached, you can register your grievance with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). It is important to act quickly because you have just three months less one day from the date the discrimination took place.

ACAS will work with you and your employer to resolve the issue. You might receive financial compensation and an assurance from your employer that changes will be made in the workplace.

Sometimes issues are more complex and need to be referred to an employment tribunal. If your case reaches tribunal, our solicitors can represent and advise you throughout the process.

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Legal advice for unfair treatment at work

Our employment solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with unfair treatment at work and offer friendly, straightforward advice.

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Unfair treatment at work FAQs

What is overtime discrimination?

You cannot normally be forced to work over 48 hours a week by law. However, you can sign a contract agreeing to work longer hours.

You are only compelled to work overtime if stated in your employment contract. Your employer does not have to guarantee you overtime unless it is specified in your employment contract.

Overtime must be fair, whereby an employer cannot refuse overtime to somebody because they have a protected characteristic, as this could result in a discrimination claim.

How can you prove unfair treatment at work?

To prove unfair treatment, it is advisable to keep all documentary evidence that you feel is relevant. This could include emails, transcripts of conversations, photographs, wage slips and receipts. You should also keep a diary of events.

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