Your responsibility as an employer
If a worker says that you or another worker employed by you or your agent have unlawfully discriminated against them in a work situation, your responsibility is to deal with the complaint in a way that finds out if there has been unlawful discrimination and, if there has been, to put the situation right.
This guide focuses on the equality law aspects of dealing with a complaint from a worker. If a worker makes a complaint (which is often called 'bringing a grievance') about something else at work, which is not related to a protected characteristic, then you can get advice from the Arbitration and Conciliation Service (Acas) about how to deal with this. Contact details for Acas are found within Further sources of information.
A worker may:
- complain to you
- make a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
These are not alternatives, since the person complaining still has a right to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal even if they first complained to you.
Good practice tips for avoiding and sorting out claims about discrimination at work
A worker who believes they have experienced unlawful discrimination has a right to make an Employment Tribunal claim.
Defending an Employment Tribunal claim can be lengthy, expensive and draining, and it can have a damaging impact on the reputation of your organisation.
It is likely to be in everyone's interest to try to put things right before a claim is made to an Employment Tribunal.
If you have good procedures for sorting out complaints about discrimination, you may be able to avoid the person feeling it is necessary to bring a claim against you.
An important factor will be for your workers to be sure that complaints about unlawful discrimination will be taken seriously, even if they are raised less formally, outside your formal grievance procedures, and that something will happen to put the situation right if someone has discriminated unlawfully.
Tell your workers what the options are for bringing unlawful discrimination to your attention, and how to use your procedures, including:
- discussing the situation informally with you or a manager, and
- using your formal grievance procedures.
Make it clear what will happen if, after investigating, you find out that someone has discriminated unlawfully against someone else:
- that if necessary you will take any disciplinary action you decide is appropriate
- that if necessary you will change the way you do things so the same thing does not happen again, then make sure you do this.
- consider equality training for yourself and/or people working for you
Last updated: 19 Feb 2019