Securing the job you want is always difficult, particularly in the current economic climate where competition for places is high. That said, applicants should at the very least be able to expect a level playing field when being considered for a position, but sadly this is not always the case.
The Equality Act 2010 seeks to protect people at every stage of the employment process, and this includes job interviews and appointment decisions, so there are employment law measures in place to protect those who are attempting to get back into the world of work.
Workplace discrimination is not something which only happens to people while they are in employment. While it is often the case that someone makes a legal claim against a former employer for unfair, wrongful or constructive dismissal on the basis of discrimination, protection against this is afforded to all potential applicants from the moment they apply.
How might discrimination affect your application?
Every employer has a legal obligation to promote diversity in the workplace. To that end, there are several ‘protected characteristics’ which can be cited in any discrimination claim. They are age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, pregnancy, marital status or gender re-assignment.
If any of these apply to you, and you feel that they were a factor in you not being fairly considered for a job that you applied for, you could be entitled to make a claim for discrimination against that employer.
For example, if a wheelchair user were overlooked for a job on the basis that that company’s offices did not have sufficient wheelchair access, this would be a clear case of disability discrimination as it is the company’s responsibility to make sure such access is in place. This is known as direct discrimination, which occurs if a candidate is unfairly disadvantaged or looked upon unfavourably because of one of these protected characteristics.There are very few circumstances where this is acceptable, but such cases do exist and are said to be justified on objective grounds. For example, in the acting profession it is often necessary to only consider performers whose age matches that of a particular character.
Indirect discrimination occurs when a job requirement could unfairly disadvantage applicants who possess one of the protected characteristics. For instance, stating that all candidates must be clean shaven means that some religious groups could not apply.
However, indirect discrimination is slightly different in that it often can be justified on objective grounds. For instance, if the job involves working with food then the employer could reasonably claim that a beard would pose a health risk.
What to do if you suspect discrimination
If you have reason to believe that discrimination was a factor in your being overlooked for a job you applied for, the first thing you should do is contact a specialist employment law solicitor. Orbis Solicitors offer experienced employment law solicitors who can help with your discrimination claim.
This should be done as soon as possible after the incident, as a discrimination complaint must be made within three months (less one day) of the latest incident.
Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the likely success of your claim, considering all sides of the argument to assess whether or not an employer will be able to cite justification on objective grounds.
Once they have taken up the case on your behalf, your employment law solicitor will be able to help mediate with your employer with aim of reaching a settlement. If this proves to be unsuccessful, they can then represent you at any subsequent employment tribunal.
Orbis Solicitors are based in Lancashire, and offer years of experience in employment law cases, including discrimination claims and employment tribunals. They can offer advice and guidance to both employees and businesses.