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inequitable treatment of employees of which the main forms are:
  1. sex discrimination, where men and women are treated differently by their employer;
  2. race discrimination, where people are treated differently according to their colour, nationality, race or ethnic origins.
  3. disability discrimination, where disabled people are treated less favourably than others.

Discrimination can be said to be morally unacceptable in that it infringes people's rights and is also counterproductive in that it can result in people's talents being under-utilized. Since the late 1960s legislation has been aimed at tackling the more overt forms of discrimination at work in the UK. The Equal Pay Act 1970 established the right for men and women to be paid the same rate of pay for performing the same job or a job rated as equivalent. It was widely believed, however, that employees could circumvent the intentions of this legislation by segregating men's and women's jobs. That the average female wage is only 75% of the average male wage tends to support this contention. In 1983, however, UK law was amended to establish the right to equal pay for work of equal value (in line with the European Union's directive on equal pay). Thus, a woman doing a job which is shown to be of equal value to a different job done by a man has a right to the rate of pay of the latter. Aggrieved individuals may pursue their claim to an INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL, whereupon the techniques of JOB EVALUATION will be used to assess the claim.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status in RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION, TRAINING and employment benefits unlawful. The 1975 Act also established the Equal Opportunities Commission with a remit to:

  1. work towards the elimination of sex discrimination in employment, education and consumer services;
  2. promote equality of opportunity;
  3. monitor the effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts. As well as direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, for example framing a job advertisement in a way which intentionally excludes women, is unlawful. Initially small firms and private household employers were exempt, but the Sex Discrimination Act 1986 (passed in response to a European Court ruling) removed this exemption.

The Race Relations Act 1976 is similar to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in making both direct and indirect discrimination in employment on grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic origins unlawful. As with claims of sex discrimination, aggrieved individuals can pursue a claim to an industrial tribunal. This legislation also created the Commission for Racial Equality to:

  1. work towards the elimination of racial discrimination in employment, education and consumer service;
  2. promote equality of opportunity;
  3. monitor the effectiveness of the 1976 Act.

The approach to combating discrimination against disabled people at work traditionally relied on the imposition of quotas. This changed with the Disability Discrimination Act in the mid-1990s. This legislation required that organizations take positive steps to meet the needs of disabled people in RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION and in EMPLOYMENT. A Disability Rights Commission was established to promote the rights of disabled people. The approach to tackling discrimination differs from measures to promote gender and racial equality. The latter aims at equality of treatment with a reference group (e.g. men) whereas the recent disability legislation aims at promoting measures that respond to the particular needs of disabled people.

Whilst legislation has largely curbed the more blatant forms of sex and race discrimination, it cannot be said to have achieved equality of opportunity. Only a minority of top managerial positions are held by women or black people. To encourage the recruitment and advancement of these people, many organizations have recently styled themselves as ‘equal opportunities employers’. What this means in practice varies and many are sceptical of employers' claims in this respect. It is generally believed that to be meaningful such claims need to be supported by explicit equal opportunities policies in the area of recruitment, selection, training, etc., coupled with monitoring procedures to permit assessment of their impact. As part of this, data will need to be collected on the proportion of recruits, trainees, and those promoted, who are drawn from disadvantaged groups (for example ethnic monitoring). In addition DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES and GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES will probably require amendment so as to discourage discriminatory behaviour and to provide channels of redress for those who feel they have been discriminated against. See GLASS CEILING.


(1) The act of making generalized distinctions among groups of people or things without inquiry into the specific characteristics of individuals within the group. This includes illegal discrimination such as that based on race,color,sex,age,disability,religion,or family status (protected classifications) and legal discrimination such as a builder's bias for or against local subcontractors. Federal and state laws prohibit denying or discouraging housing or credit choices for persons in protected classifications. (2) The unintentional but still illegal effect of barring certain groups of people from access to housing, credit, goods, or services because of their race,color,sex,age,disability,religion,or family status.This is called disparate impact.An example would be a prohibition against tenants having animals in their units,which would work a hardship to the sight-impaired who rely on guide dogs. (3) Specific federal laws addressing discrimination include the

• Americans with Disabilities Act
• Fair Housing Act provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
• Equal Credit Opportunity Act

References in periodicals archive ?
22) Their findings suggest that a 3-week course of sensory re-education can improve moving and static two-point discrimination in selected surface areas of the human body.
The second mass was nontender, but the patient reported numbness at the ulnar tip of the finger and two-point discrimination was slightly impaired (7 to 8 mm).
The instrument recorded the shortest distance between the prongs where the women could feel two pressure points versus one, called a two-point discrimination score.