Equality at work

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Equality at work

The sources of actual and potential inequality at work are many and since the 1960s we have seen the government becoming more involved in combating inequality in the workplace by passing legislation in various areas: sex, marital status and sexual orientation; national origin ethnicity and race; disability; age; union membership or non-union membership; part-time and fixed term work; ex-offenders whose convictions are spent .... A literature review covering this topic has to be selective and focus on only few (three-four) areas of potential inequality and discrimination. The form and nature of the inequality/discrimination would be discussed and the legislation passed to rectify it critically evaluated; has it been successful and managed to eliminate inequality and/or discrimination in the respective area?





equality at work.

A literature review covering this topic has to be selective and focus on only few (three-four) areas of potential inequality and discrimination. The form and nature of the inequality/discrimination would be discussed and the legislation passed to rectify it critically evaluated; has it been successful and managed to eliminate inequality and/or discrimination in the respective area?

Definitions od discrimination;

  • unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice
  • recognize or perceive the difference
  • racism: discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race
  • Sexism, a term coined in the mid-20th centuryShorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition, refers to the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to or less valuable than the other


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Definition 1

Bias or prejudice resulting in denial of opportunity, or unfair treatment regarding selection, promotion, or transfer. Discrimination is practiced commonly on the grounds of age, disability, ethnicity, origin, political belief, race, religion, sex, etc. factors which are irrelevant to a person's competence or suitability.

Definition 2

Unequal treatment provided to one or more parties on the basis of a mutual accord or some other logical or illogical reason.

Definition 3

Differences in two rates not explainable or justifiable by economic considerations such as costs.


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Determination of attitudes and policies on the basis of racial characteristics, often due to racialism. Racism manifests in hatred and fear of people of different ethnicity, and in overt or covert attempts to keep them in subordinate (less important and less powerful) positions. Whereas individual racism is expressed usually in open antagonism and prejudice, institutional racism involves subtle structuring of organizations and systems in a tacit understanding to keep 'them' down or out.

Ageism refers to the stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age

* EQUALITY: the quality of being the same in quantity or measure or value or status

* a state of being essentially equal or equivalent; equally balanced; "on a par with the best"

Types of discrimination

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee less favourably than someone elsebecause of one of the above reasons. For example,it would be direct discrimination if a driving job was only open to male applicants.

There are limited circumstances in which an employer might be able to make a case for a genuine occupational requirement for the job. For example, a Roman Catholic school may be able to restrict applications for a scripture teacher to baptised Catholics only.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is when a working condition or rule disadvantages one group of people more than another. For example, saying that applicants for a job must be clean shaven puts members of some religious groups at a disadvantage.

Indirect discrimination is unlawful, whether or not it is done on purpose. It is only allowed if it is necessary for the way the business works, and there is no other way of achieving it. For example, the condition that applicants must be clean shaven might be justified if the job involved handling food and it could be shown that having a beard or moustache was a genuine hygiene risk.


You have the right not to be harassed or made fun of at work in a work-related setting (eg a social event). Harassment means offensive or intimidating behaviour - sexist language or racial abuse, which aims to humiliate, undermine or injure its target.For example, allowing displays or distribution of sexually explicit material or giving someone a potentially offensive nickname.


Victimisation means treating somebody less favourably than others because they tried to make, or made, a complaint about discrimination. For example, it could be preventing you from going on training courses, taking unfair disciplinary action against you, or excluding you from company social events.

Being treated unfairly for other reasons

If you are treated unfairly but it is not for one of the reasons listed above, it may be that you are being bullied. Bullying should never be acceptable in the workplace, find out what you might be able to do about it.

What is racial discrimination?

The 1976 Race Relations Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on racial grounds. Race includes:

  • colour
  • nationality
  • ethnic or national origins

Under the Act, it doesn't matter if the discrimination is done on purpose or not. What counts is whether (as a result of an employer's actions) you're treated unfavourably because of your race.

The Race Relations Act protects all racial groups, regardless of their race, colour, nationality, religious beliefs, national or ethnic origins.

The laws against racial discrimination at work cover every part of employment. This includes recruitment, terms and conditions, pay and benefits, status, training, promotion and transfer opportunities, right through to redundancy and dismissal.

The law allows a job to be restricted to people of a particular racial or ethnic group where there is a 'genuine occupational requirement'. An example is where a black actor is needed for a film or television programme.

There are four main kinds of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination - deliberate discrimination (eg where a particular job is only open to people of a specific racial group)
  • indirect discrimination - working practices, provisions or criteria that disadvantage members of any group (like introducing a dress code without good reason, which might discriminate against some ethnic groups)
  • harassment - participating in, allowing or encouraging behaviour that offends someone or creates a hostile atmosphere (eg making racist jokes at work)
  • victimisation - treating someone less favourably because they've complained or been involved in a complaint about racial discrimination (eg taking disciplinary action against someone for complaining about discrimination against themselves or another person)

Sex discrimination

Under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act it's unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because:

  • of your gender
  • you are married
  • you have had, are having or intend to have, gender reassignment, this means someone, supervised by a doctor, who changes their gender Sex discrimination laws cover almost all workers (men and women) and all types of organisations in the UK. It covers:
  • recruitment
  • employment terms and conditions
  • pay and benefits
  • status
  • training
  • promotion and transfer opportunities
  • redundancy
  • dismissal

Equal pay

The 1970 Equal Pay Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women in terms of their pay and conditions where they are doing either:

  • the same or similar work
  • work rated as equivalent in a job evaluation study by the employer
  • work of equal value

Genuine occupational qualifications

In some cases, a job can be offered to someone of a particular sex, because of what is called a 'genuine occupational qualification'. Examples could include:

  • some jobs in single-sex schools
  • jobs in some welfare services
  • acting jobs that need a man or a woman

Help and advice from Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Acas aimsto improve organisations and working life through better employment relations.It provides up-to-date information, independent advice andhigh quality training.The serviceworks with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance.

The Disability Discrimination Act

Under the DDA, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people for a reason related to their disability, in all aspects of employment, unless this can be justified. The Act covers things like:

  • application forms
  • interview arrangements
  • proficiency tests
  • job offers
  • terms of employment
  • promotion, transfer or training opportunities
  • work-related benefits such as access to recreation or refreshment facilities
  • dismissal or redundancy

Reasonable adjustments in the workplace

Under the DDA, your employer has a duty tomake 'reasonable adjustments' to make sure you're not put at a substantial disadvantage by employment arrangements or any physical feature of the workplace.

Examples of the sort of adjustments your employer should consider, in consultation with you, include:

  • allocating some of your work to someone else
  • transferring you to another post or another place of work
  • making adjustments to the buildings where you work
  • being flexible about your hours - allowing you to have different core working hours and to be away from the office for assessment, treatment or rehabilitation
  • providing training or retraining if you cannot do your current job any longer
  • providing modified equipment
  • making instructions and manuals more accessible
  • providing a reader or interpreter

Things to consider at work

You can play an active role in discussing these arrangements with your employer. You might also want to encourage your employer to speak to someone with expertise in providing work-related help for disabled people, such as an occupational health adviser.

Issues for you both to consider include:

  • how effective will an adjustment be?
  • will it mean that your disability is slightly less of a disadvantage or will it significantly reduce the disadvantage?
  • is it practical?
  • will it cause much disruption?
  • will it help other people in the workplace?
  • is it affordable?

You may want to make sure that your employer is aware of the Access to Work programme run by Jobcentre Plus. Through this programme, employers can get advice on appropriate adjustments and possibly some financial help towards the cost of the adjustments.

Access to Work - practical help at work


Your employer cannot select you for redundancy because you are disabled or for any reason relating to your disability. If your employer is consulting about any future redundancies, they should take reasonable steps to make sure you are included in the consultations.

Your employer must also make reasonableadjustments to any selection criteria they create for selecting employees for redundancies, to make sure the criteriado not discriminate against disabled employees. For example, a reasonable adjustment for your employer to make could be discounting disability-related sickness absence when using attendance as part of their redundancy selection scheme.

Redundancy (general employment section)

Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commissionis a good source of advice if you feel you may have been discriminated against at work or elsewhere. It can also help if you think you have been discriminated against and want to lodge a claim at an Employment Tribunal.

Equality and Human Rights Commission website Opens new window

Who is protected from age discrimination?

Age discrimination at work is unlawful in almost all types of employment. All employees and workers of any age are protected from age discrimination including partners of firms, contract workers and anyone in vocational training.

All aspects of your employment (or prospective employment)are protected from age discrimination, including your recruitment, employment terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals and training.

In some cases different treatment of a worker or employee because of their age can be justified, for example making special provisions for younger or older workers in order to protect their safety and welfare. See section on objective justification below.

Age discrimination protection does not cover the provision of goods and services.

Protection against age discrimination

Redundancy procedures

Your employer must make sure that any redundancy policies don't directly or indirectly discriminate against older workers. An example of indirect discrimination could be your employer selecting only part-time workers for redundancy, when a large number of these may be older workers. The only exceptions are where an age requirement can be objectively justified.

There is no upper or lower age limit on the entitlement of statutory redundancy pay. Your employer will have to pay you the statutory minimum redundancy payment even if you are under 18 or over 65 (or after your normal retirement age if this is lower).


Retirement rights

The national default retirement age is 65, although this is not a compulsory retirement age. Your employer can only retire you below the age of 65 if they can show that having a lower retirement age is appropriate and necessary.

Your employer will have to give you at least six months notice of your retirement date. You have the right to request to work beyond 65 or any other retirement age set by your employer. You will not automatically be allowed to work beyond your expected retirement date and your employer does not have to agree to your request or give you a reason for turning it down,but they will have to hold a meeting with you to consider your request.

Retiring from a job

Unfair dismissal claims

There is no upper age limit on making a claim of unfair dismissal.

Unfair dismissal


Training providers (including employers, further or higher education institutions, private, public or voluntary sector training bodies and adult education programmes) cannot set upper or lower age limits for training, unless they can objectively justify the need.

Service related benefits

Many employers use service related pay and benefits to motivate staff, reward loyalty and recognise experience. If your employer uses 'length of service' criteria to increase staff pay or benefits, they can continue to do so, as long as the period of service is not more than five years.

If your employer uses a period longer than five years they must be able to justify their decision with a business need, for example by providing information about recruitment and retention.

Can you be refused a job because you're too young?

Older people experience most age discrimination. However, it also takes place against young people. It is now unlawful for an employer to impose a lower age limit when recruiting, unless this age restriction can be objectively justified or is imposed by law.

Objective justification

If challenged, your employer must be able to justify that any direct or indirect discrimination is a proportionate way of achieving a legitimate aim.

What is proportionate?

Your employer should have no reasonable alternative other than to introduce an age-based practice.

For example, a construction firm hiring for physically demanding work that requires a good level of physical fitness, the employer might have a case for setting a maximum age for their on-site workers for health and safety reasons.

What is a legitimate aim?

A wide variety of aims may be considered legitimate, but they must correspond with a reasonable need for your employer. Economic factors, such as business needs and efficiency may be legitimate aims, but arguing that it could be more expensive not to discriminate will not be a valid justification.

For example, a high street fashion store who wishes to employ younger staff in order to complement their brand image is unlikely to beable to objectively justify this because it is not a valid aim.

What to do next

If you feel you're at a disadvantage because of age-related criteria for recruitment or promotion policies, or if you think you're suffering age discrimination, you'll be able to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. However, it's best to talk to your boss first to try to sort out the matter informally. You are entitled to write to your employer if you think you've been discriminated against or harassed because of your age.

Racism is defined as, 'The belief that one 'racial group' is inferior to another and the practices of the dominant group to maintain the inferior position of the dominated group. Often defined as a combination of power, prejudice and discrimination'. From my research and knowledge I have identified three main key reasons that explain the persistence of racism. These are history, numbers and the psychology of whiteness.

The persistence of racism is attributable to the history of racism, where is commenced and how it developed. Racism began during the 17th century during the slave trade. Christian men led their life by following the bible. The bible condemned the enslavement of others so to escape this argument they suggested that black people were not humans but animals. It is believed by some that slavery was the result of racism. However Black historian Eric Williams said, "Slavery was not born of racism - rather, racism was the consequence of slavery." Slaves were treated poorly. They were worked from sunrise to sunset, were fed on fatty meat and corn flour , lived packed in small houses but they hardly dared to complain in fear of being punished, usually by getting whipped. It is from my knowledge and research about slavery that would cause me to agree with Eric Williams, that racism is a consequence of slavery. People saw the slaves as animals; they believed they had the right to treat them with no respect or humanity. When slavery became demolished in 1865 it fuelled the effect of racism furthermore. Black people were already seen as mere animals and people believed they were no use other than to be worked. With black people's new found rights people became angered at the thought that they were being measured as the same, to be called equals. To some the new law was correct. They had got to know the "slaves" as people, they taught them how to speak English, and some slaves became part of the "white" people's families. Black people had the same anatomy, with the only difference being of colour. However most people could not adjust, they refused to accept that they were now classed as alike after so many years of treating black people like animals, to do with as they wished. These angered, emotional people helped to fuel racism. They still hunted black people like they were animals and protested at the fact that they could ever be the same as them.

The persistence of racism is also down to numbers. When the slave trade began and black people were first introduced to white people as slaves and labourers there were few black people due to how many could be brought over by boat. The numbers slowly increased as the slave trade grew but it was always a predominantly white country even when the slave trade was demolished. As time went on people began to immigrate. In the 18th century there were 20,000 black immigrants. It's used to be a white majority and a black minority.  Now it is no longer either. You have to include Asians, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims, etc. There are so many different ethnicities. However, with so many different ethnic people in the world racism has grown as well as changed. It's no longer just about blacks. Or even colour. As time went on after the slave trade there was discrimination about women. For many years women were discriminated towards jobs and the amount paid to them compared to men. As black people were seen as animals, women were seen as staying at home with then children. There has always been strong discrimination towards gays. It's seen as wrong to some people. Racism could be said to have started a war with life about everything that seems a bit strange or odd to us. If racism never began would we still discriminate against colour, women, disability, gays? But just as the number of blacks grew from a minority to a majority figure so will gays. Women have won their fight about being treated fairly. People just need to be given time to accept it. In the beginning it's seen as wrong, then some people begin to accept the change, soon it becomes natural, normal!

The persistence of racism is caused by the psychology of whiteness. The word "Whiteness" was created during the slave trade. When slaves were first introduced into society "whiteness" and "blackness" became terms in reference to racism, these words were the start of racism. It is poignant to see how two little words could create hundreds of years of fighting, anger and heart ache in the world. Franz Fanon once wrote, "Colour is the most outward manifestation of race." It introduced the theme of racial differences which created the emergence of 'white-skin privileges'. Even though slavery was abolished, racism was not as easy to overcome. Black people may have been legally seen as equals but that is not how the world saw it. Black people were not paid as much, they did not get good education, or first pick of jobs no matter how qualified they were. Black people were beaten up in the streets just for being black. White people did not want them working with their kids as nanny's or in their factories touching their products. It was a new world and yes things had changed for black people but not necessarily in a better way than it was before slavery was demolished. At least as slaves they had a title or a purpose. Now they were treated worse, like scum. This is when the word 'Nigger' was created. It is said to have been the worst insult in history. The word 'Nigger' suggests that black people were second class citizens, ignorant and less than human. Strangely enough today black people still use the word as a sort of greeting or acknowledgement towards each other but it is not acceptable for white people to say it.

Having discussed the key factors of the persistence of racism I am compelled to discuss racism in the world at the moment. Racism still exists. It's everywhere in the world. Immigrants are blamed for the high unemployment rates in the UK. They are even blamed for the low wages but really it's the government's fault that the minimum wage is not enough to live on. In our world today it is the few rich people that control all the wealth and because of their status they treat worse off people as scapegoats. In government only in the past few weeks Tony Blair was found to have used tax payer's money to pay for his TV licence and Gordon Brown paid someone £5000 of tax payer's money to clean his flat. So really if government MP's weren't spending tax payers money on their own luxuries maybe minimum wage would be higher and immigrants wouldn't be blamed. With modifications like this maybe racial abuse towards immigrants would decrease. Any good changes towards racism could help start the journey to the end of it. Just as blacks became equals, and women were paid the same wage as men, racism can be put to an end. It could be 50 years from now or 500 years, but hopefully one day the world will be a eutopia.

To conclude, racism is not so much all about being black or white nowadays. Any difference of skin colour or facial differences has become a cause for racism. In the society of which we live in racism has become the norm. We are flooded with racist labelling about blacks, Arabs, Muslims and immigrants every day. I for one know what its like. I'm Irish and people are always making jokes, calling me 'IRA' and saying "what you going to do about it, bomb us?" Even as jokes racism still finds a way into this world. It's sad that even now bullying is still happening. Were not kids, were adults and we still feel the need to intimidate and torment innocent people. What makes us any different to terrorists? Some say at least terrorist believe they have a cause that they are fighting for. What does racism achieve for u?