Employers must treat all employees equally and fairly. They shouldn’t in any way discriminate against employee characteristics in any way. To start with, direct discrimination is when an employee or a group of employees is treated unfavourably because of a specific characteristic. The law has nine protected characteristics namely; age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, religion or belief, race, sex, sexual orientation and marriage and civil partnership.
On the other hand, associative discrimination occurs indirectly when the affected employee doesn’t possess the characteristic personally. The discrimination occurs due to a protected characteristic, and in this case, the individual in question can file a claim for discrimination by association.
A perfect example is that of an employee who had been promised a promotion at workshop tells his manager that he has an epileptic son. On hearing this, the manager then withdraws the promotion promised arguing that the father would not be able to concentrate and focus fully on the new role because of the divided attention of caring for his ill son.
Effects on the Business
When an employer is found guilty of discrimination, be it direct or by association, a tribunal claim can be filed. If the tribunal finds the claim to be valid, then it can order the employer to compensate the victim as per the case of the discrimination. The amount to be compensated varies, and it’s entirely for the tribunal to decide depending on the severity of the discrimination.
The Equality Act 2010 protects all employees from associative discrimination just like in the direct discrimination. It is the right of every employee to stand up and condemn this type of discrimination boldly knowing that the law is behind him or her. There isn’t any required length of service to file a tribunal claim against the rogue employer.
Employers must ensure employees are aware of discrimination by association and learn that it is a crime that can’ be tolerated in the organisation no matter who commits it. Employers can do this by reviewing their harassment and equal opportunity policies to ensure they cover associative discrimination and train employees who might not be aware of its existence, law behind it and the consequences.