Employees and workers enjoy significant legal protection against unlawful unfair treatment by their employers and worker rights have been strengthened in recent months, putting you in a stronger position in the workplace than ever before.
If your employer’s conduct towards you has been unlawful or you have been unable to exercise your rights, you may be able to take legal action against your employer.
The employment law team at Warners Solicitors in Kent sets out your legal rights against unfair treatment, discrimination, and claiming compensation.
Workers’ rights against unfair treatment
Sometimes, employers have to make hard decisions which are in the best interests of the business – and, though their conduct may seem unfair, it may not be unlawful. However, all workers are entitled to be protected from unlawful discrimination in the workplace.
Your employer must not discriminate against you based on a protected characteristic as defined by the Equality Act 2010. Protected characteristics include age, disability, marriage, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and sexual orientation. This means, for example, that it is illegal to:
- dismiss you because you are gay;
- select you for redundancy because you are pregnant;
- deny you a promotion because you are on maternity leave;
- pay you less than your colleagues because you are disabled; or
- exclude you from training opportunities because you are middle-aged.
Disabled employees may need to request specific adjustments in the workplace to make their working life easier. If this request is unreasonably refused, this will amount to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability.
It is also unlawful to treat a worker unfairly because they are a trade union member or because they have complained about the employer or senior management.
Types of unfair and unlawful discrimination
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to know if your employer has actually treated you unlawfully, but it will usually be clear when unlawful direct discrimination has occurred. Direct discrimination is where you have been treated less favourably than your colleagues because you have a protected characteristic.
Less obvious is indirect discrimination which is where your employer implements a policy or rules for everyone – but which puts you at a disadvantage because you have a protected characteristic.
You also have the right not to be unfairly dismissed, for example, because you have blown the whistle on suspected wrongdoing by your employer. What if you have been left with little choice but to leave work because of your employer’s unfair conduct or unfair inaction? In this case, you may be able to make a compensation claim for constructive dismissal.
What you can do if your employer treats you unfairly or unlawfully
Consider talking to your employer on an informal basis if you can, but if it is a sensitive matter or you feel unable to discuss it directly, think about putting in a formal grievance. Check your employer’s grievance procedures and talk with the expert solicitors at Warners Solicitors so that you have the expert support and advice you need.
Also, consider keeping a chronological record of the employer’s conduct and any conversations that have taken place. This may help strengthen your employment claim.
When you can take legal action
If all else fails, consider making a formal claim to the employment tribunal. You must act promptly, though, as your claim must be started within three months less one day of the alleged unlawful discrimination taking place.
In most cases of unfair conduct, you can make a claim regardless of your length of service but we will tell you if, for any reason, you are not able to.
For further information, please contact Warners Solicitors on 01732 747900 or email [email protected]. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.