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Victimisation

This advice applies to Wales

If you’re treated badly because you complain about discrimination or you help someone who has been discriminated against, this is called victimisation. Victimisation is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. If you’ve been treated badly because you complained, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about victimisation.

What is victimisation?

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.

Victimisation is when someone treats you badly or subjects you to a detriment because you complain about discrimination or help someone who has been the victim of discrimination. Because the Equality Act recognises you may be worried about complaining, you have extra legal protection when you complain about discrimination.

What’s meant by detriment?

Detriment means you’ve suffered a disadvantage of some sort or been put in a worse position than you were before.

Example

You make a complaint of sex discrimination against your employer. As a result, you’re denied a promotion. This is victimisation and you can take action against your employer under the Equality Act. You’ve suffered a detriment as you didn’t get promoted.

It’s unlawful for someone to treat you badly because you do something about unlawful discrimination or because they think you have done or may do something about unlawful discrimination.

Why did the discrimination happen?

You can complain about discrimination which is because of:

  • 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.

When does the law protect you?

You’re protected against victimisation only if you do one of the following things:  

  • make a claim or complaint of discrimination under the Equality Act
  • give evidence or information to help someone else who has made a complaint or a claim under the Act
  • do anything else which is related to the Act
  • say that someone has done something unlawful under the Act.

These are called protected acts.

You don’t have to complain about your own discrimination and you don’t have to have a protected characteristic yourself.

Example

You make a complaint to the school of your disabled son about his unfair treatment by some of the staff. You meet with the head teacher and the problem is resolved. However, you’ve now been told that you can’t help out at school any more even though you’ve long been an active parent helper. You believe this is  because you complained about your son’s treatment.  This could be victimisation and is unlawful under the Equality Act.

Does it matter that you were victimised long after you complained?

There is no time limit within which the victimisation must happen after you complain or do another protected act. What’s important is that you were treated badly because of your protected act.

Example

Three years ago you helped an employee of your local bank branch in a sex discrimination claim against the branch manager. Last week, you were refused an overdraft facility by the bank manager who says he will never forget the tribunal claim. This would be victimisation even though the protected act took place three years ago.

When are you not protected against victimisation?

You’re not protected against victimisation if you act in bad faith by making false accusations or by giving false information.

However, you’re still protected if you give information which you thought was true even if it later proves to be wrong or if the proceedings are unsuccessful.

Example

One of your colleagues has taken action against your employer for racial harassment. You’ve been asked to give evidence at the Employment Tribunal hearing. You’ve got a personal grudge against your employer and knowingly give false information at the hearing. Your employer subsequently disciplines you. This would not be victimisation as you acted in bad faith by giving false information.

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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