q What is the most common type of discrimination? - Thrive Law

What is the most common type of discrimination?

This is a question which we get a lot; what kind of discrimination do we see the most here at Thrive? What is the most common type of discrimination?

We see so many different types of discrimination, that it’s difficult to say what type we see most. But, what is clear, is that the most common circumstance is where employers, decision making, or employees don’t even realise, know, or intend to be discriminatory.

Quite often, where there is discriminatory behavior, we see that people say that they “didn’t mean” for the behavior to be offensive, or they “didn’t realize” it was discriminatory. There are a few instances where this is more likely than others.


Harassment is unwanted behaviour that a person finds offensive or which makes them feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Unwanted behaviour could be: spoken or written words or abuse. offensive emails, tweets, or comments on social networking sites. Harassment must also be because of a protected characteristic.

Harassment is a common type of discrimination because often it is whether the person receiving the behaviour is offended by it. What is said as a “joke” or “banter” may not be received as a joke which is why this is so common; as long as the person is actually humiliated, then it could qualify as harassment. Similarly, a finding by an employer, following a grievance, that something was just a “joke” so they won’t take any action, could be further discriminatory behaviour.

There is somewhat of a defence, however, as a Claimant needs to show that the person who harassed them meant to make them feel a certain way, or that they actually felt that way even though it wasn’t their intention. This is called ‘purpose or effect’. If the person didn’t mean to make the Claimant feel this way, it also has to be ‘reasonable’ that they did feel that way.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination can happen when an employer puts policies procedures or rules in place that can put employees with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage. For example, if you required all employees to work full time then this could put women who are usually the primary carers for their children at a disadvantage.

When people are unaware that they are being discriminatory or do not intend to be, this is one of the most common types of discrimination because at times you may make decisions or put in place business practices without thinking to consider those with protected characteristics. Sometimes you may not even know that someone has a protected characteristic, for example, a hidden disability.

Disability discrimination

Another common form of “accidental” discrimination is where employees have invisible disabilities, such as mental illness, allergies, diabetes etc. Where a condition has a substantial effect on an employee’s ability to live their day to day life, that still qualifies as a disability and therefore affords that employee the right not to be subject to a detriment because of it. They are also entitled to reasonable adjustments, to alleviate any detriment due to their disability. This is another area where an employer should therefore be careful not to accidentally discriminate.

Did you know we provide outsourced HR services to businesses?

We often work with our HR clients, to ensure that they are not accidentally making any decisions which could give rise to disability claims.

Using Thrive’s HR services makes your life easier; we provide you with quick and most importantly, correct HR decisions so your staff management is stress-free and sufficient. We take care of everything. From drafting contracts and handbooks tailored to your business to advising and supporting you through redundancies. There is no limit to our knowledge, if you have an HR question, our qualified solicitors have the answer for you. We are always one phone call away.

Why should you outsource your HR services to solicitors? Getting your HR services from a solicitor means, should a case ever proceed to tribunal everything we have ever discussed is protected by legal privilege meaning all conversations are protected. Whereas if you were to use an HR consultant, all conversations and documentation regarding that employee would be disclosable in the tribunal.

Get in touch today to invest in your business and make your HR stress free.

By Annabelle Oliver and Alicia Collinson

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