Discrimination at work


No one should be discriminated against, and GMB is here to help members who are experiencing discrimination at work. It’s important to know your rights and to get in touch with GMB if you have a problem. 

What are my rights?

Discrimination means being treated differently because of who you are. 

It is illegal to discriminate against people on the ground of their gender, pregnancy/maternity, marriage/civil partnership, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion or belief, race, disability, age, and the membership or non-membership of a trade union.

Discrimination isn’t about being treated ‘unfairly’ – of course that should never happen and my may be covered by other parts of employment law – it is about being treated differently because of one of the characteristics described above. It’s useful to ask when thinking about discrimination, ‘would this be happening if I were a man? Would this be happening if I were not a trade union member?’. 

There are two main types of discrimination – direct and indirect. 

Direct discrimination is a worker being treated less favourably because of a characteristic, so for example it would be discrimination if a woman wasn’t promoted because being a manager ‘is a man’s job’ or if a man was not appointed as a care worker because ‘that’s a job for a woman’. That’s very clear – the workers in question are given or not given an opportunity because of a protected characteristic, e.g. their gender.

Indirect discrimination is where a rule or change is imposed that on the surface may not look like it discriminates, but that impacts disproportionately on one group of workers, such as imposing a shift pattern that means working mothers find it more difficult to work than men because of child care responsibilities.


I am being discriminated against at work, what should I do?

Contact GMB immediately. If you have a workplace rep, you should speak to him or her in the first instance.

Always keep a diary of events if you begin to think that things around you are happening because of discrimination – so, for example,  log comments that are made, who said it, what they said, when they said it.

Remember there are strict time limits for pursuing a claim legally – hopefully it won't come to that and bringing in your GMB rep will help resolve the matter for you in your workplace.

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