What is discrimination?

If you discriminate against your employee on any of the following grounds (known as protected characteristics), you may be acting unlawfully:

  • Sex
  • Marital or civil partner status
  • Race (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origin)
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Religious belief or political opinion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity

When does it occur?

Discrimination can occur in an employment context:

  • In the way in which a job is advertised
  • In the decision regarding whether or not to hire an applicant
  • During the period of employment
  • In a decision to bring an employment contract to an end
  • After the employment has come to end, regarding the provision (or non-provision) and content of references

Everybody has the right to equal pay for equal work within the same employment.

The UK Government has introduced guidelines and regulations for workplace discrimination that deal with disability, sex, race, religion, age, pay and sexual orientation. The rights of the employee and the responsibility of the employer are covered in this section.

See the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) website for more information on equality and discrimination.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) is the body responsible for promoting equality in Northern Ireland, including in the workplace. They can assist both employees and employers with advice regarding discrimination and equal opportunities.

Any Employer who has more than 10 employees who work 16 or more hours a week must register with the ECNI within one month of reaching these criteria. This can be done online.

Registered employers are required to monitor the sex and community background of their employees and submit an annual monitoring return to the Commission. They are also required to conduct what is known as an 'Article 55' review at least once in every three years. This review looks at the composition of their workforce and of their employment practices.

Explore the law guide