Employment laws are there to protect employees against any kind of discrimination in the workplace. This could be any kind of discrimination, including; sex, race, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability and membership or non-membership to a trade union. The lemployment law aims to achieve a general equality within the workplace and eliminates any wrongful treatment on any of the grounds mentioned above.
Harassment is closely linked to discrimination in the workplace and can take a variety of different forms. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as the unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex which affects the dignity of an employee. Harassment may also occur if an employee is victimised or singled out for exceptional treatment because of their sex, race, disability or union/non-union membership.
A legislation has been put into place that makes it unlawful for employers to treat workers less favourably than others because of their sex or marital status. All employees are eligible for protection by the law through every stage of employment, including the recruitment and dismissal stage. This protection is against both direct discrimination and indirect discrimination towards an employee.
If an employee is disabled their employer will have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to make reasonable adjustments to prevent a disabled person from being made to feel like they are at a disadvantage. There is a legislation that prohibits unlawful discrimination against a disabled person in employment and defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry on normal day-to-day activities.
Harassment is defined as any unwanted conduct which is objectionable and causes offence to the victim. Harassment can come in a variety of ways, such as; verbal and non-verbal harassment, the latter including exposure to materials which are offensive to an employee. If exposure to these materials are particularly offensive and relate to sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief or disability, then it can automatically be classed as a form of harassment or discrimination.
Harassment can be found in the form of victimisation which is used in discrimination law to describe what action has been taken by an employer against an employee which has led to retaliation for initiating complaint proceedings. This may include a refusal to promote an employee because he or she had brought about a grievance or for giving evidence against the employer at an employment tribunal. It can also be evident after employment has finished, where for example an employer refuses to give a former employee a reference after tribunal proceedings have begun. An employee that becomes subject to victimisation should make a claim to the employment tribunal within 3 months of the incident.