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What is direct discrimination?

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Direct discrimination definition

Direct discrimination relates to the unlawful practice of treating someone less favourably or disadvantaging them as a direct result of their age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.  

When direct discrimination happens, it means that someone else who does not share the same characteristic as you, is, or would be, treated more favourably or receive an unfair advantage.  For direct discrimination to occur, the individual does not have to identify as the characteristic they are claiming is the discriminatory factor, as they could also be being discriminated against by perception (because someone thinks they have that protected characteristic) or be being discriminated against by association (because they are connected to someone else with that protected characteristic).  

Real-world context:

  • Anti-discrimination: Actively seeking ways to avoid actual or perceived discrimination - by removing or mitigating policies, processes or practices that negatively impact on a person, or group of people’s protected characteristic - is a vital way for organisations to create workplaces where everyone is welcome and can be valued for who they are. Anti-discriminatory practice describes the active efforts of intentionally identify and removing prejudice and discrimination from workplace thinking, behaviours, decisions and systems.  
  • Equality impact: Best practice for avoiding discrimination in the workplace (unintended or otherwise) should include organisations regularly carrying out an “Equality Impact Assessment” or “Equality Analysis”, in order to assess the potential for, or likelihood of, any discriminatory impact on those individuals or groups with a shared protected characteristic. An Equality Impact Assessment (or “EIA”) is an evidence-gathering process that looks at individual or organisational practice, criterion or procedure (which could include an employer’s policies, procedures, requirements, rules or arrangements) and would systematically assesses each for potential or actual impact. However, for an EIA to be truly effective, action should be taken to remove, mitigate or accept any potential impact being identified, and documented to explain why each decision has been taken, particularly if no action is taken and discriminatory practice is accepted and/or justifiable in the context.   

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