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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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2 Diversity legislation

The key piece of legislation which defines an employer’s legal responsibilities in the UK is The Equality Act 2010 (, 2022), which legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society, and sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.

Watch this short video from Educare to hear a useful overview of the Act.

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Video 3: What is the Equality Act?
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As outlined in the video, the Act describes four main forms of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others
  • indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage
  • harassment – unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them
  • victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment, or supported a complaint or raised a grievance, related to a protected characteristic.

Other legally recognised forms of discrimination are:

  • discrimination by association, which occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of the protected characteristic of a person with whom they are associated, such as a friend, partner, parent or child; and
  • discrimination by perception, which involves an individual being treated less favourably because they are mistakenly perceived to have a protected characteristic.

Activity 3 Indirect discrimination

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity.

Consider the following examples and, in the box below, explain why they demonstrate indirect discrimination.

  1. There’s a clause in your contract which says you may have to travel around the UK at short notice. (Citizens Advice, no date)
  2. A job advert for a salesperson says applicants must have spent 10 years working in retail. (ACAS, no date)
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Now spend a few minutes reflecting on whether examples like those could potentially happen in your workplace? What structures are in place to avoid them?


Example 1

If you’re a woman with young children, this could be more difficult. This clause therefore places you at a particular disadvantage. It also places women generally at a disadvantage, as they’re more likely to be the carers of children.

You could challenge the clause because it affects you personally, even if you’ve not been asked to travel at short notice yet.

Example 2

By doing this the business could be discriminating indirectly based on age. This is because the advert excludes young people who may still have the skills and qualifications needed. You’ll learn more about the importance of the wording you choose in a job advertisement in Week 6.

The advert should instead say that applicants need a specific type of experience and knowledge. It should also include the main tasks and skills involved in the job, to show applicants what they’ll need to be able to do.

The full Equality Act 2010 legislation can be accessed online. See the References section for the link.

If you are not based in the UK, use your preferred search engine to look for your own country’s government guidance on the topics of equality and discrimination or diversity and inclusion.

Next, you’ll move on to explore some of the wider benefits of diversity and inclusion to you and your organisation.