Combatting Victimisation at Work: Your Guide to the Equality Act 2010

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In this article, we explore the labyrinthine enigma of workplace victimisation - its multifaceted forms, the ripples it sends across legal landscapes, and the toll it exacts on employees.

What is victimisation at work under the Equality Act 2010?

Workplace victimisation is a significant issue addressed by the Equality Act 2010. The Act defines and outlines the forms of victimisation, creating a protective legal framework for individuals who perform 'protected acts'. Here's what you need to know:

Understanding victimisation

According to the Equality Act 2010, victimisation at work involves an employee's unfair treatment or 'detriment' because they've either made or supported a complaint about discrimination or harassment or are suspected of doing so.

Protected acts

A critical part of understanding victimisation revolves around 'protected acts'. Individuals are safeguarded from victimisation if they have carried out a protected act. This could include a range of actions such as:

  • Lodging a discrimination claim
  • Raising a grievance
  • Providing evidence or information to back a complaint
  • Performing any other action about the Act
  • For example, a protected act would be an employee complaining of sexual harassment.

Must Read: What is a Workplace Grievance? A Guide for Managers

Unlawful conduct

It is illegal for anyone within a company, be it the employer, a senior manager, or a colleague, to treat someone who has enacted a protected act unfairly or differently.

This rule holds even if the complaint proves to be unfounded, provided it was made in good faith.

By understanding these points, employers can ensure that their workplace stays in line with the Equality Act 2010, providing a safe, respectful environment for all employees.

Victimisation at work examples

victimisation at work

Workplace victimisation is a multifaceted issue and can manifest in several ways. Here are some examples:

  • A line manager mistreats an employee after they have complained.

  • A colleague subsequently ostracised a staff member who has brought proceedings against the company.

  • A senior manager or employer threatened an employee after they enacted a protected act under the Equality Act.

  • An employee is being mistreated, experiencing negative changes in their role, or facing undue criticism after raising a complaint.

  • A staff member was denied promotion or training opportunities because they supported a colleague's discrimination claim.

  • An employer unjustifiably dismisses an employee following their involvement in a grievance process against the company.

Each of these instances involves a detrimental action taken against an employee due to their involvement in a protected act - a clear violation of their rights under the Equality Act 2010.

What is meant by detriment?

In legal terms, 'detriment' implies being put in a worse position because of a particular action. This might include a formal grievance against you, suffering from unwanted conduct, bullying or experiencing less favourable treatment than your colleagues.

For example, a staff member complaining about sex discrimination might be excluded from meetings or informal discussions.

Dealing with complaints of victimisation

Addressing complaints of victimisation effectively is crucial to fostering a fair and respectful workplace. Employers have a responsibility to prevent such incidents and handle any complaints that arise promptly and appropriately.

The following steps outline how employers can best deal with these challenging situations:

Establish a well-defined grievance process

A clear, comprehensive grievance process is the first step towards effective complaint management. This process should provide clear guidelines on how to complain, the steps to be taken once a complaint is received, and the possible outcomes. It's essential to ensure this process is easily accessible and understood by all employees.

Prompt response

Once such a complaint is made, it should be addressed promptly. Delays can compound the distress experienced by the victim and may even deter others from raising similar concerns. A swift response demonstrates the employer's commitment to a fair workplace.

Thorough investigation

Employers should ensure a comprehensive and impartial complaint investigation. This may involve interviewing all parties involved, including;

  • The complainant
  • Alleged perpetrator
  • And any witnesses.

The investigation should aim to gather all relevant information to establish a clear picture of what occurred.

Appropriate action

Based on the outcome of the investigation, appropriate action should be taken. This could range from disciplinary action against the perpetrator, providing support and assistance to the victim, or even involving external authorities in severe cases.

The response should be proportionate to the severity of the incident and demonstrate the employer's commitment to preventing further victimisation occurs.


After the action has been taken, it's essential to follow up with all parties involved to ensure an effective resolution. This can also provide an opportunity to address any residual issues or concerns.

Through these steps, employers can deal effectively with complaints of victimisation, supporting a healthy and respectful work environment.

What is the difference between discrimination and victimisation?

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While both discrimination and victimisation are addressed under the Equality Act 2010 and involve unfair treatment, they are distinct in nature and context. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial for maintaining a respectful, inclusive workplace:


This refers to the unfair or discriminatory treatment of individuals based on their 'protected characteristics'. This protected characteristic may include, but is not limited to:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage or civil partnership status

Discrimination is when one individual is treated unfairly or less favourably than another because of these protected characteristics.


This is a term used to describe the unfair treatment of an individual because they have made a discrimination complaint or supported someone else's criticism. This Act of complaining or giving evidence or supporting a complaint is known as a 'protected act', and individuals should not be punished for performing such an act.

These definitions help clarify the legal distinctions between discrimination and victimisation, assisting employers and employees in identifying and addressing these issues appropriately within the workplace.

Victimisation at work: Advice for employers

Employers must create an environment that discourages victimisation and promotes equality. It's essential to understand that the law protects employees who make genuine complaints, even if the claim is unsuccessful.

Employers should have clear anti-discrimination and victimisation policies in place and ensure all employees, especially those in senior management, are trained on these matters.

When are you not protected under the Equality Act?

The Equality Act provides broad protections, but you may not be covered in some instances. For example, if an employee makes a false claim or statement in bad faith, they might not be protected against victimisation or unlawful discrimination.

Does it matter that you were victimised long after you complained?

An essential aspect of understanding victimisation under the Equality Act 2010 is acknowledging the role of timing.

Many people may wonder whether there is a time limit on victimisation – that is, the unfair treatment that occurs a significant amount of time after a complaint has been lodged can still be considered victimisation under the Act.

According to the provisions of the Equality Act, the legislation does not prescribe a specific time limit within which unfair treatment must occur to qualify as victimisation.

This means that even if a considerable period has elapsed since the initial complaint, an employee's subsequent detrimental treatment can still be classified as victimisation.

How to deal with a victimisation claim

victimisation at work, claim for victimisation

If an employee submits a formal written grievance complaining about victimisation, employers should treat it seriously.

Investigate the claim thoroughly, interview all relevant parties, and document the findings. If the claim is substantiated, employers should take appropriate action to rectify the situation.

Why did the discrimination happen?

Discrimination often occurs due to ingrained biases and prejudices in the workplace. It's essential to note that it is unlawful, under the Equality Act 2010, to discriminate against someone based on their protected characteristics.

When are you not protected against victimisation?

As mentioned, an individual who makes a false complaint in bad faith isn't protected against victimisation. Likewise, if an employee or employer threatens to make a false discrimination claim, they aren't covered by the Act.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

The EHRC is a statutory body that promotes equality and human rights. It offers valuable resources and guidance on dealing with discrimination and victimisation. For severe cases, they can step in and provide legal assistance.

What steps can I take to successfully bring a claim for victimisation to the Employment Tribunal?

If you plan to bring a claim for victimisation, gathering all the relevant evidence, such as emails, meeting minutes, and witness testimonies, is vital. You should also consult a lawyer who can guide you through the process.

It's worth noting that bringing a claim can be challenging and time-consuming, so it's best to seek advice before proceeding.

Useful read: Understanding Employment Tribunals

Negotiating a settlement if you've been victimised in the workplace

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In some instances, the employer and victimised employee might negotiate a settlement. This usually includes compensation for the victim and often requires the employee to leave the company.

The settlement negotiations also should be conducted in good faith and with the help of legal professionals.

Examples of compensation awarded in victimisation claims

Compensation in victimisation claims can vary greatly. It might include financial remuneration for any loss of earnings, personal injury, and emotional distress to prevent victimisation at work. In some cases, aggravated damages may be awarded for particularly malicious acts of victimisation.

Do I need to resign from my job if I have been victimised?

Resignation isn't necessarily the only option for a victimised employee. You might claim against your employer or seek a transfer to a different department or location.

However, if the victimisation continues and your employer fails to address it, resignation might be a last resort.

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Understanding and addressing victimisation is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. Employers have a significant role in preventing victimisation and dealing with claims effectively.

By promoting a culture of respect and equality, we can ensure that all employees feel safe and valued in their workplace.

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Topic: at Work
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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