Despite new legislation which has, in theory, made it more difficult for workplaces and individuals to discriminate, instances do still occur. Whether you are facing prejudice based on your age, gender, ethnic background, a disability, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, help is at hand.
Examples of discrimination
You’re in your fifties and have been doing the same job for ten years. Younger people have been employed since you arrived and have received extensive training. As a result, they have been promoted over you. You have more qualifications and experience than them, but you keep being passed over. There might be another explanation, but you are convinced that your employer feels you are nearing the end of your career and are not worth investing in.
You are a woman working in a male-dominated environment and you’ve experienced sexual harassment or inappropriate comments from your colleagues. You may even be paid less than male colleagues who are doing the exactly same role. Or perhaps you’re a man and you’re applying for a role that is traditionally associated with women, such as childcare. Maybe you’re not given the same opportunities simply because you’re a man.
Perhaps you’re a practising Muslim and people have taken offence about the way you dress or your desire to pray at certain times of the day. Or you’re a Christian who chooses to wear a cross or host a lunchtime prayer meeting and have become the butt of all the office jokes. Or maybe you’re an atheist in a faith-based setting and feel you are always excluded from conversations even though you have valid points to make.
What can I do about it?
These are just a few examples of discrimination and prejudice in the workplace. Your experience may have been completely different, but if you feel the way you’ve been treated is unfair, it’s time to act. So what do you do?
It may help to keep a diary of instances when you have felt discriminated against. If you are part of a union, talk to your union representative about these issues. They will be able to advise you as to whether what is happening is illegal. If it is, they can support you in setting up meetings with senior colleagues so that you don’t feel alone when it comes to raising your concerns.
If you’re not part of a union, you may wish to have an informal chat with your line manager or HR manager. They may be able to intervene on your behalf and sort the problem out without it going any further. If you feel they have not listened to your complaint properly or taken the appropriate action, it may be time to speak to Citizens Advice.
Alternatively, you may wish to speak to a legal professional who deals with employment law. He or she will be able to support you through the process, right through to a tribunal if that’s the only way to resolve it. Obviously, there is a cost involved here, but if you are experiencing prejudice it’s important that you talk to someone rather than suffering in silence.
Time for a change
If you can’t bear the thought of raising these issues and the stress that might be involved in putting them right, you may wish to seek employment elsewhere. This is totally understandable, and possibly the most sensible option, but be aware that discrimination can follow you around. If you find that this experience isn’t a one-off, it’s definitely worth getting help from a union rep or an employment solicitor.
If you’ve decided it’s time to move on, check out our latest job vacancies here
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