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Discrimination at work can happen in many different forms and be direct or indirect. While it’s common practice for employees to undertake training courses in understanding unconscious bias and anti-discrimination, human resources professionals need to be aware of the different types of discrimination that can occur in the workplace. Below are some examples:

Age discrimination: treating employees differently based on their age.

Disability discrimination: treating employees differently based on their disabilities, physical or otherwise.

Gender discrimination: treating employees differently based on their gender.

Racial discrimination: treating employees differently based on their race or ethnicity.

Sexual orientation discrimination: treating employees differently based on their sexual orientation.

Common types of workplace discrimination

One major factor that influences workplace discrimination in certain industries is the level of diversity among employees. For example, industries that are historically male dominated, such as construction or mining, may struggle to attract and retain female employees. This can lead to increased instances of gender discrimination or harassment.

In social care, ableism is another type of discrimination that may be prevalent. Ableism refers to discrimination against individuals with disabilities and can be seen in many forms, such as a lack of accessibility or inadequate accommodation in the workplace, remedied by physical changes to flexible working arrangements.

Another common discrimination issue stems from generational differences among employees, where baby boomers, millennials, and generation z employees all work alongside each other. This diverse mix can lead to discrimination based on age, with older employees being stereotyped by some as resistant to change or less adaptable. HR professionals can work to create a culture of mutual respect and appreciation, acknowledging the strengths and experiences each generation brings to the table.

Industry-specific norms and customs can also contribute to discrimination in the workplace. For instance, in the creative or art industry, there may be an expectation of working long hours or on a fast-paced schedule. This can be a challenge for employees with families or other obligations outside of work, who may be discriminated against or overlooked for promotions based on their inability to conform to these expectations.

Discrimination in the workplace: prevention methods

Preventing discrimination is not only the ethical thing to do but makes good business sense. Discrimination – whether it happens once or over a prolonged period – can result in low morale, decreased productivity, tension amongst employees, and an unhealthy work environment. Further, businesses may face expensive litigations or fines for discrimination.

Stamping out discrimination requires the involvement of employees at all levels. Businesses can establish a code of conduct or a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards discrimination. Policies and procedures should be in place to protect employees from discrimination, including grievance procedures, protocols for investigation, and enforcement consequences.

Preventive procedures may vary from business to business, depending on size, industry, and the diversity of the workforce. For example, a small business may not require the same protocols as a large corporation. A call centre dealing with customers over the phone may have different discrimination issues to address than a factory that relies on heavy machinery. Therefore, businesses may need to put in place specific policies to prevent different forms of discrimination.


A business that goes above and beyond to prevent discrimination is likely to reap the rewards in employee satisfaction, loyalty, positive brand reputation, and financial benefits. Those that prioritise diversity and inclusion tend to outperform those that do not.

Preventing discrimination in the workplace requires a joint effort from everyone in the organisation. Human resources professionals can lead the charge by ensuring the workforce is trained, policies and procedures are in place, and that employees feel supported and protected. That way, businesses can avoid the negative impact of discrimination and attract and retain top talent from all walks of life. With the right measures in place, companies can create a work culture that is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive for all.

If you’re looking for assistance with your equality, diversity and inclusion strategy – get in touch with one of our specialists today.