The word discrimination means different things depending on how it is used. In everyday contexts, the word is usually used to describe whether a person has been treated unfairly or badly in some way. Discrimination in law is when a person is disadvantaged or wronged for certain reasons and in certain situations.
Discrimination on different grounds
Discrimination is very much about prejudice. Some people think that other people should be a certain way based on, for example, how they look, their gender or the colour of their skin.
For example, there are preconceptions that women don't know anything about technology or cars, that people with disabilities can't do certain jobs, or that young people are less able to take responsibility than older people.
A manager at a car company who has these prejudices may never hire a girl who is great at technology, a person with a disability who is very good or a young person who takes a lot of responsibility. Because that employer may never even take the chance to read their applications or to meet them. These are examples of when people are discriminated against.
For it to count as discrimination under the law, the person must be disadvantaged or aggrieved based on one or more of the grounds of discrimination.
There are currently seven grounds of discrimination under the Act. Below you can see which ones:
- Gender identity and expression
- Religion or belief
- Disability/functional variation
- Sexual orientation
The seven grounds have been selected because they are the most common grounds of discrimination. Most people who are discriminated against and treated unfairly do so on one or more of the seven grounds. For example, if you are a girl with a disability, you may be discriminated against on the grounds of both your gender and your disability.
For it to be considered discrimination under the law, it must also occur in certain situations. These situations include:
- At school or university
- When you apply for a place on a course
- At work, or when looking for a job
- In health care
- When you are in contact with the authorities, for example the police, the employment service or the social services
- When you want to rent a property.
But discrimination law does not apply in all situations. If another private person insults or treats you badly because of one of the grounds of discrimination, for example because you are gay, this does not count as discrimination under the Discrimination Act. However, it can be counted as another crime such as unlawful threats, harassment, hate crime, assault or similar.
Here you can read more about this.
Do you experience discrimination?
To address inequalities, additional support is sometimes provided to those individuals or groups who are discriminated against. For example, a pupil who has difficulty with maths may be given extra help in maths. Or that a person in a wheelchair should have priority access to the wide door toilets.
It could also be that the sports club decides that girls should get the best training time, so that more girls will start playing football and find it fun, even if there are more boys playing football in the club. This is not discrimination but a way of trying to work against inequality and injustice.
At The Discrimination Ombudsman's website for more information on discrimination. You can also file a complaint if you have been discriminated against. If you have been treated badly or insulted by another private person, you can report it to the police.
Remember, no one can discriminate against you! It's never your fault if someone treats you badly. You have the right to get support and help.