Entering the world of work can be a pretty exciting but nerve-wracking time. From writing cover letters to job interviews, we’ve covered all the basics of finding work. But what about what comes after? One of the secrets to working in a fun, fair and productive workplace is a little thing called 'equality'. So what is equality in the workplace and what are your rights when it comes to discrimination?
First of all, check out this video for an overview:
What is equality in the workplace?
Equality is the fair treatment of people regardless of their gender, race, disability, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or age. At school or in the workplace, equality means making sure people are given equal opportunities, equal pay and are accepted for their differences.
What is discrimination in the workplace?
Imagine you’re at a movie theatre with your friends. You and your friends go to buy some tickets but the person behind the counter says they only sell tickets to people with blue eyes. This means some of your friends will get to see the movie and some will not. That’s pretty unfair, right?
With that in mind, discrimination is the unfair treatment of someone for their gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability. In the UK, it is against the law to discriminate against someone in a variety of circumstances including at work and in education.
The UK Government puts discrimination into the following four categories:
- Direct discrimination: Treating someone less well than others (like paying someone less money than others because of who they are).
- Indirect discrimination: Putting rules in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone else at an unfair disadvantage (like having job requirements that exclude disabled people).
- Harassment: Unwanted behaviour linked to someone’s differences such as name-calling, bullying and stereotyping.
- Victimisation: Treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment.
What do I do if I experience discrimination at work?
First of all, the best thing to do is talk to a parent, guardian, teacher or (if it’s at work) your employer. They will be able to help you while informing you of your rights and what you can do.
If you’re experiencing discrimination at work and you don’t feel comfortable talking to your employer; try and approach someone higher up or who is part of ‘human resources’ (people whose job it is to help the employees of big organisations).
You should also find out who your trade union representative is and talk to them. If you don't know what this means, check out this article about trade unions.
If you’re not sure of who to go to or what to say, the following charities and organisations can give you advice:
- Citizens Advice Bureau - provides people with information that can help them understand their rights and the laws that protect them.
- ACAS - gives employees advice on how to deal with discrimination in the workplace.
- Stonewall - an organisation specifically for members of the LGBTQ community facing discrimination.
- Equality Advisor Support Service (0808 800 0082) - a helpline that can let you know what help you need and where to find it.
How do I make sure my workplace is equal?
Making sure a workplace is a fun and fair environment for everyone is, for the most part, the responsibility of an employer. But you can do some things to help, too! Upholding equality is about acknowledging that we are all different and accepting those differences. This means treating everyone with respect no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what they look like.
And if you see someone get treated unfairly, don’t be afraid to let them know you are there to support them. Standing alongside those who are experiencing discrimination can help lead to a better workplace... and a better future!