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Discrimination law: Protection and liability


The definition of employment, under the Equality Act 2010, is broader than the definition of employment that is used for unfair dismissal and other employment claims. It includes job applicants, employees and workers, contract workers and ex-employees. This means that the use of "employee" in this section should be read as including workers, apprentices, etc.

Employees are protected from discrimination throughout all stages of their employment, including post employment.

An employer is vicariously liable for the acts of discrimination carried out by its employees in the course of their employment. An employer's only defence is if it can show that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the employee doing the unlawful act.

An employer may, as principal, be liable for discriminatory acts carried out by its agents with its authority. Unlike the position with employees, a principal cannot rely on the reasonable steps defence.

There are circumstances in which other bodies may be liable for acts of discrimination.

An employee may be personally liable for any discriminatory acts that they carry out against other employees during the course of their employment. Similarly, an agent may be personally liable for any discriminatory acts that they carry out.