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Types of Discrimination

Last Updated: August 2020

Discriminating against workers because of any of the nine characteristics is against the law. Discrimination occurs in different ways, some are more obvious than others. Discrimination on the grounds of any of the protected characteristics is prohibited by law, even if unintentional, unless a particular exception applies.

Direct Discrimination:

Less favourable treatment because of one of the protected characteristics. Direct Discrimination can arise in some cases even though the person complaining does not actually possess the protected characteristic, but is perceived to have it, or associate with people who have it.

Indirect Discrimination:

Arises when an organisation places an apparently neutral provision, criteria or practice, which in fact puts individuals with a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage, and this is unjustified. To show discrimination, the individual complaining must be personally disadvantaged. This type of discrimination is unlawful, unless it is proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.


Means treating a person less favourably because they have either made a complaint of discrimination, have provided information in connection with a complaint, or because they might do one of these things.


Unwanted conduct which is related to a protected characteristic, and which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for them. Or, unwanted conduct which is of a sexual nature.

Disability Discrimination:

This could be direct, or indirect discrimination, and is any unjustified less favourable treatment because of the effects of a disability, and failure to make reasonable adjustments to alleviate disadvantages caused by a disability.


Equality Human Rights Website (2019) What is the Equality Act? Available at:

SVC’s Policies and Procedures (2020) Equal Opportunities Policy. Available at: