Taking legal action about discrimination

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you can take action about it under the Act.

One of the things you can do is to make a discrimination claim in the civil courts.

This page explains the procedure or steps you need to follow when you make a discrimination claim in court. It doesn't cover discrimination in the workplace as you need to follow different steps if you want to take legal action about it.

Making a discrimination claim

Taking court action can be a long and stressful process. It can also be expensive. It’s important to keep in mind that if you lose the case in court, you may have to pay the legal costs of the other party.

If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should talk to an adviser.

Check whether unlawful discrimination has happened

If you want to take court action you need to be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place, according to the Equality Act.

Getting information about your discrimination case

You can ask for information about your treatment from the person or organisation you think has discriminated against you. This can help you decide if you want to take action and what action you should take.

Where do you make a discrimination claim?

You need to make your discrimination claim in the County Court.

What are the time limits for making your claim?

There are strict time limits for going to court. You need to make your claim within 6 months less one day of the act you’re complaining about. The court can allow a claim outside the time limits, but only if it considers it just and equitable to do so.

If you want to make a claim about discrimination at work, the time limit is 3 months.

You may be able to get legal aid to help you pay for your court action. To get legal aid you need to meet the eligibility criteria. You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) who can help you find out if you can get legal aid.

You can also check if you're eligible on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk

What you need to do before you make a claim

You must follow specific steps before you take court action. These steps are set out in a document called the Practice Direction on pre-action conduct.

Try to resolve your case without going to court

The Practice Direction says you must always consider alternatives to court action - for example, mediation before you take action.

Exchanging information

You need to inform the person or organisation you want to take action against, why you want to take action. You do this by sending them a letter called a letter before claim. Your letter should explain what happened to you and why you think unlawful discrimination has taken place. The person or organisation you want to take action against is called the defendant.

The defendant will then write back to you to explain their position. This will help you both decide if you can find a solution to the problem without going to court.

Annex A to the Practice Direction explains in more detail what you need to include in your letter and what happens after you’ve sent it.

Starting your claim

You start court proceedings by issuing a claim form. You will normally have to pay a fee to the court but you can apply for a reduction of the fee if you receive some benefits or are on a low income.

What do you need to put in your claim form?

You need to explain to the court and the defendant why you’re taking court action. You do this by filling in the details of your claim. These are called particulars of claim.

The particulars of your claim is where you say what happened to you and how you think this is unlawful under the Equality Act. You also need to say what kind of order you want the court to make to resolve the problem. This could be - for example, that you want compensation and how much money you want.

The particulars of claim start the legal case so you need to be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place.

You might need to take advice on what you put in the claim form from an experienced adviser - talk to an adviser.

How does the defendant to the case respond?

The defendant responds to the claim by completing a defence form. It sets out what they agree and disagree with in your claim form.

What happens next?

Once you’ve made your claim in the court, what happens next depends on how the defendant responds to your claim. You can find information on what happens after you’ve made a claim on the Ministry of Justice website.

Next steps

For more information about taking action about discrimination go to:

Other useful information

Making a claim

  • Practice Direction on pre-action conduct at: www.justice.gov.uk.

  • You can find information on what happens after you’ve made a claim on the Ministry of Justice Website at www.justice.gov.uk

  • HM Courts and Tribunals Service - How do I make a court claim at www.justice.gov.uk

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

The EASS has also published template letters which you may find useful when complaining about discrimination. They are available from the EASS website at www.equalityadvisoryservice.com.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

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