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Making or telling someone to discriminate

This advice applies to England

It’s unlawful to tell someone or make someone discriminate against you. The Equality Act 2010 calls this instructing, causing or inducing someone to discriminate.

Read this page to find out more about what’s meant by instructing, causing and inducing discrimination.

What’s meant by instructing, causing and inducing discrimination?

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. This means you can take action in the civil courts.

It’s unlawful to make someone or tell someone to discriminate against you. It’s also unlawful to tell someone or make someone harass or victimise you.

It doesn’t matter if someone actually discriminates against you or not. It’s the act of telling someone or making someone discriminate against you which is unlawful.

The Equality Act calls this causing, instructing and inducing someone to discriminate.

When is it unlawful to make or tell someone to discriminate against you?

It’s unlawful to tell or make someone discriminate against you because of your or someone else’s:  

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Equality Act calls these things protected characteristics.

In what kind of situations is telling or making someone discriminate against you unlawful?

It’s unlawful to make someone or tell someone to discriminate against you only in the specific areas covered by the Equality Act.

The Equality Act says it’s unlawful to discriminate against you in the following areas:

  • education - for example, schools and universities
  • employment
  • housing - for example, when renting or buying property
  • services - for example, shops, businesses, hospitals and transport
  • associations and clubs - for example, private health clubs or private member’s clubs.

Who can take action?

If you’ve experienced discrimination

If you’ve been discriminated against, you can take action against person who discriminated against you.

You can also take action against the person who gave the instruction or who caused the discrimination to happen. But, you have to show that you’re worse off because of the discrimination. The Equality Act says you’ve suffered a detriment.

Example

You’re looking for a house to buy and you’ve seen one at your local estate agent which is within your budget. When you enquire about it, the estate agent says the asking price has gone up even though this isn’t true. This is because the owner of the house has told him to say this if someone of your ethnic group asks about it.  

The owner of the house has instructed the estate agent to discriminate against you. As the estate agent carried out the instruction, you’d have a discrimination claim both against the estate agent and the owner. You’ve suffered a detriment since you’ve been prevented from seeing the house.  

If the estate agent had refused to discriminate against you, you would still have a claim against the owner, but only if you’d suffered some kind of detriment or disadvantage.

If you’ve been told or made to discriminate by someone else

If you’ve been told to discriminate or otherwise been made to discriminate against someone, you may also have a claim under the Equality Act against the person who told you to discriminate.

But you have to show that you’ve suffered a detriment.

Example

You work as a receptionist in a GP surgery. Your employer has told you not to register any new patients from a nearby Gypsy and Traveller site. You refuse to carry out his instruction and are then disciplined because of it. You would have a discrimination claim against your employer. This is because he asked you to discriminate against Gypsies and Travellers and disciplined you when you refused.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

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

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

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