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Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Discrimination in day-to-day working practices

Direct discrimination is generally easily recognisable, eg where someone is denied employment because of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. Indirect discrimination, however, can be harder to detect and may often be unintentional.

If a person feels they are discriminated against unlawfully, they may take a case to an employment tribunal. This could lead to heavy penalties for the employer and, in the absence of an appropriate explanation, employment tribunals are required to infer that discrimination has occurred.

For more on discrimination tribunal claims, see the page in this guide on the common areas of discrimination law.

It is also important to bear in mind that it is unlawful to discriminate against part-time and fixed-term workers. For example, it would be unlawful to:

Most employers produce policies that set out the rules and procedures their staff need to know. A policy statement may help employees to understand what the employer expects of them, and their legal rights and obligations - see our guide on how to set up employment policies for your business.

Equal pay reviews

Many companies have instituted equal pay reviews which aim to ensure that all staff enjoy the same pay and conditions while doing similar types of work.

The reviews can help avoid "glass ceiling" working cultures, where certain types of people don't get promoted above specific levels. These reviews can also help make sure that an equal pay policy is working.

Equal pay reviews may be carried out by someone within the company trained to deal with equality issues or they may be conducted by an outside team of specialists.

Download guidance on how to check equal pay from the Equality and Human Rights Commission website (PDF) - Opens in a new window.

Positive action

Positive action is a lawful way of eliminating imbalances in staff numbers in terms of race, sex, etc. It is therefore possible to:

  • Encourage members of the minority group to take up opportunities for work, eg by having job advertisements stating that applications from, for example, women, disabled people or minority ethnic groups will be particularly welcome. However, the advertisement must still state that the final recruitment decision will be based solely on merit. 
  • Give members of, for example, the minority sex or non-white people access to training for particular work.

However, positive discrimination - eg deliberately recruiting only non-white people to reach a quota - is unlawful.

Subjects covered in this guide

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Employing people

Equal opportunities and diversity


Prevent discrimination and value diversity





Common areas of discrimination law


Discrimination during recruitment


Sex discrimination


Equal pay and conditions


Age discrimination


Discrimination against disabled people


Discrimination on the grounds of race


Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief


Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation


Discrimination over membership or non-membership of unions

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Discrimination in day-to-day working practices


Equality and contracting with the public sector