Discrimination takes many forms. You as an employee could have been discriminated against if you have any protected characteristics, and are either directly or indirectly discriminated against, or you experience bullying or harassment in the workplace because of them.

The protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity

We have covered certain examples of discrimination separately. This guide simply outlines the many forms which discrimination can take.

Discrimination can come in different forms

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Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination occurs if you are treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic. For example, being rejected for a job because of your religious views or because you might be gay.

Indirect discrimination

You could be being indirectly discriminated against if your employer is putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put you or someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage. For example, requiring a job to be done full-time rather than part-time would adversely affect women because they generally have greater childcare commitments than men. Such a requirement would be discriminatory unless it can be justified.


Harassment could be happening to you if a person in the workplace is conducting unwanted behaviour linked to your protected characteristic that violates your dignity or creates an offensive environment for you. This includes sexual harassment.


You could be being victimised if you are being treated unfairly because you have complained about discrimination or harassment.

Are you an employer who needs guidance? Click here

If you require any legal assistance and think you have a claim for discrimination, at Thrive, we would be happy to help. Acas has also provided guidance on discrimination here:

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