Know your employment rights
3 handy tips from our expert employment solicitor, Nikki Sharpe…
I work with people who have lost their job because of discrimination or unfair practices through no fault of their own. I also work with employers, supporting them to put the right structures in place to keep their staff safe and their processes legal.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to experience discrimination in the workplace. Whilst many employers take their role in safeguarding staff seriously (and I’m happy to say the majority of employers I work with in South Yorkshire do), there are still those that don’t.
Anyone who has experienced discrimination in the workplace will know just how damaging it can be. Not only can it lead to you feeling like your current post is untenable, but the way it erodes your confidence and trust in people, can make it incredibly hard to seek out and secure new employment. One of the biggest issues that I have come across in my role as an Employment Lawyer, is that people don’t know their rights or how to respond to discrimination when it is happening to them. Even when a company follows the minimum legal requirements, complaints procedures within firms can be daunting and often feel inadequate for victims.
Each case is different, but today I’m sharing some basic advice that I hope will support you if you are in employment and are finding it difficult to sustain because of discrimination in the workplace.
1). We should recognise firstly that discrimination can take many forms. It could be that you are being discriminated against because of your race or your sex. It could be because you are pregnant. Equally it could be because of a physical disability or because of your mental health. It could be your age, religious beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation or the gender that you identify with. The Government website has a number of helpful classifications https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights
2). If you believe you are being discriminated against, ask yourself, in what way is this affecting you? Are you being put at an unfair disadvantage? Are you being treated less fairly than others? Are you being victimised or harassed? Being able to articulate how you are being treated unfairly is the first step, because this is what you will need to explain in writing to your employer.
3). Put it in writing. It is important to check through your own employment contract and handbook to understand if your employer has any specific policies around discrimination but in all cases you will be asked to put it in writing. This can feel very scary because it is formalising something that perhaps you have been feeling or that other people may have been aware of but not yet acted on. It is also difficult because sometimes the issue that you are raising a grievance about is ingrained in the culture of the workplace. It can be hard to find impartiality or someone you can report it to who isn’t in that circle. Although it can be extremely difficult to put it in writing, it is your first step on the road to protecting yourself and setting your stall out before it escalates further
A bit about Nikki…
I started my legal career working with people who have experienced accidents at work and elsewhere. Over the years, I have worked closely with Trade Unions, employers and a number of government agencies in pursuit of justice for these people. I moved into Employment Law because I understood the implications unfair treatment can have on an individual and I understood the legal roles and responsibility of the official bodies that are supposed to protect people from this.
It can be very scary to speak out about discrimination, but you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace and even if you work for a company that has not prioritised this through their own policies, you are protected by the Equalities Act 2010. My advice is to access the support that is out there, become informed about your rights, follow the right procedures and speak out.
If you are having difficulties staying in your current job role because of a breakdown in communication with an employer, a health or mental health related condition, and would like to access additional support to stay in work, please do not hesitate to contact me by telephoning our office or you can email me.
I also run a free Employment & Discrimination Clinic on the last Saturday of every month in which you can pop in & see me for a free consultation. You can read more about our clinic here.