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Dealing with Discrimination: Tips for Employees

As talent shortages increase and employees demand more respectful, empathetic employers, you may assume discrimination in the workplace would be diminishing.

While it’s true that many organisations are focusing more heavily on diversity and inclusion, workplace discrimination remains a persistent issue. More than a third of adults in the U.K. feel they’ve experienced discrimination at work. The issues aren’t just limited to gender or race either, but age, background, culture and more.

Workplace discrimination is illegal in most parts of the world; it places employers at risk of significant fines and legal action. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent problems from happening. That’s why employees need to know their rights.

Here’s your guide to dealing with discrimination in the workplace.

Step 1: Know Your Rights – Defining Discrimination

Discrimination isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, we overlook it completely. For instance, the HMRC found the gender pay gap increased by 2.9% in 2021 and many women still don’t feel comfortable requesting a raise. Understanding how to recognise discrimination is crucial to ensuring you can fight for your rights.

Remember, discrimination can include:

  • Direct discrimination: When someone is treated less favourably than others based on a characteristic such as gender, sexual identity, race, or age.
  • Indirect discrimination: Where rules are implemented in a business intended for everyone, but that put some people at a disadvantage. For instance, a rule that employees might have to travel worldwide at a moment’s notice might discriminate against people with health issues or young children.
  • Harassment: Verbal or physical abuse towards a person based on protected characteristics like race or gender. This includes sexual harassment, as well as racial profiling.
  • Victimisation: When someone is treated unfairly after complaining about evidence of discrimination. For instance, you might be denied a promotion because you reported being harassed by a co-worker.

Step 2: Keep a Record of Incidents

Fighting back against workplace discrimination is easier when you have evidence. Although collecting this can be difficult, particularly when discriminatory interactions are verbal, keeping a record of every incident is crucial.

At the very least, it’s worth keeping a journal or diary of everything that happens. Write down the statements said or what occurred and which people were responsible. Include dates and times when the incidents occurred and as much detail as possible.

If there were witnesses to the event, list their names and consider whether you can ask them to share insights on your behalf.

Step 3: Raise the Problem Informally

Often, it’s best to approach an issue of harassment or discrimination informally before you move on to further steps. Sometimes, your managers or business leaders can address the problem for you, saving you a lot of time and stress.

Determine who you should approach about the issue. If you have an H.R. team that deals with workplace conflicts, making an appointment for a meeting would be the first logical step. If you believe your manager can help with the issue, approach them first.

Present your concern with the evidence you’ve collected. Discuss your needs with the other person and ensure they know you’re prepared to take the issue further if necessary.

Step 4: Prepare to Raise the Problem Formally

If your H.R. team or manager can’t address the issue for you, or the solution they suggest doesn’t have the right results, you may need to be prepared to take extra steps. Speaking to your union or seeking legal advise may be a good idea here, as they can provide direction on presenting your case.

An experienced employment lawyer should be able to help you navigate the courts and find the best way to reach a settlement with your employer. They’ll also assist with the more complex components of taking a discrimination case to the courts.

Step 5: Know What to Do Next

Remember, being treated poorly after you raise an issue of workplace discrimination is also its own form of discrimination and should not be permitted. If the issue is successfully rectified, you should be able to go back to your role without facing any additional problems.

However, if you notice the attitude towards you has changed, or you’re being overlooked for promotions and opportunities, you may need to address the issue again.

If you feel uncomfortable in the workplace after the incident has been addressed, you might consider switching to a new job. Starting fresh could be a good way to ensure you can seek out the best company culture.

Don’t Accept Discrimination

Raising issues in the workplace about discrimination or harassment can sound like a daunting prospect. Most of us prefer to avoid conflict whenever possible. However, it’s important to remember that you have the right to work in an environment where you feel respected, appreciated and comfortable.

You might even find that speaking up about discrimination helps inspire others in your workplace to walk the same path.

Though navigating a case of discrimination can be tricky, ensuring you can enjoy your career without fear is important.

Neil Scarborough

Managing Director

At The Recruiting Office, we have been helping firms with their talent acquisition, and a wide range of job seekers find their ideal roles for almost a decade and have successfully placed hundreds of top tier candidates.

If you want to find out how we can help you – call us on 01603 964816 or email neil@therecruitingoffice.co.uk

Further reading:

5 Steps for negotiating a pay rise

How to resign from your role, without burning bridges

Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash