When is an employer liable for discrimination?

Employers are directly liable under s.39 of the Equality Act 2010 for discrimination against an employee or job applicant because of a protected characteristic in relation to their recruitment, during their employment or in relation to their dismissal. The protected charateristics are sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment and marriage and civil partnership.

Employers are also liable under s.108 of the Act for certain acts of discrimination committed after the working relationship has come to an end. Liability may also arise for instructing, causing or inducing a contravention of the Act. An employer's liability is not limited to its own actions. The employer may also be found to be liable where employees, in the course of their employment, perpetrate acts of discrimination or where the employer's agent commits an act of discrimination, unless the employer can show that it took reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination.