Indirect discrimination

Fiona Cuming

Editor's message: Indirect discrimination is an attempt to level the playing field by subjecting to scrutiny requirements that look neutral on the face of it but in reality have a worse effect on those with a particular protected characteristic. For example, an expectation that all senior managers should work full time would impact more negatively on women as a group than men because, despite changes in society, women still have primary responsibility for childcare.

Indirect discrimination occurs where an employer unjustifiably applies an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice (PCP) that puts employees who share a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage.

As with direct discrimination, indirect discrimination cases require the application of a comparative exercise. However, in indirect discrimination claims the comparison is between one group of employees (ie those who share the protected characteristic) and another group (ie those without that protected characteristic).

Unlike direct discrimination, indirect discrimination is not unlawful if an employer is able to justify the application of the disadvantageous PCP.

Fiona Cuming, employment law editor

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HR and legal information and guidance relating to indirect discrimination.