Discrimination in the workplace has a significant impact on the lives of many, causing some to quit their jobs, feel isolated or even be turned away from a role. Although it’s clear that workplace discrimination is still an issue today, we wanted to find out just how many people in the UK believe they have been discriminated against and what types of discrimination they report experiencing.
We conducted an investigation into workplace discrimination, consisting of a survey of 2,000 UK adults, an analysis of online search trends and an examination of employment tribunals.
Here’s a summary of our main findings:
To discover how many people in the UK feel they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, we surveyed a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults using the market research company Censuswide. The survey was conducted in August 2021 and asked respondents the following question: Which of the following statements, if any, apply to you? (Tick all that apply)
Providing them with a list of the following options:
Our survey found that:
Proportion of UK adults who report experiencing discrimination whilst applying for a job or in a workplace
Next, we looked at the reasons for discrimination in UK workplaces and our survey found:
Most commonly cited reasons for work-related discrimination, based on 2,000 survey respondents:
Table showing the percentage of UK adults (by age) who say they’ve experienced some form of discrimination during the pandemic:
|16 – 24 year olds||25 – 34 year olds||35 – 44 year olds||45 – 54 year olds||Over 55 year olds||Average across all ages|
|I have been discriminated against at work during the pandemic because I fear working in the office/workplace||10%||8.2%||7.4%||3.6%||1.1%||4.9%|
|I have been discriminated against at work during the pandemic because I’m at high risk||9.5%||8.5%||3.5%||2.4%||0.8%||4%|
|I feel being at higher risk of serious illness has been a factor in me not getting jobs I’ve applied for during the pandemic||11.8%||10.9%||4.2%||5.4%||0.8%||5.3%|
We also wanted to discover what impact an individual’s employment status can potentially have on their likelihood of being discriminated against at previous, prospective or current workplaces.
Our survey revealed that:
Our survey also asked respondents which industry / profession they work in. This enabled us to discover which industries report the highest instances of discrimination in the workplace.
The survey found that:
|Position||Industry/sector||Proportion of people who say they’ve experienced workplace discrimination|
|2.||IT and Telecommunications||60%|
|5.||Arts & Culture||54%|
|7.||Sales, Media & Marketing||38%|
|9.||Manufacturing & Utilities||38%|
|10.||Retail, Catering & Leisure||36%|
|11.||Architecture, Engineering & Building||30%|
|12.||Travel & Transport||29%|
Prevalence of workplace discrimination by sector (based on survey data obtained by CIPHR in August 2021)
The most common form of work-related discrimination for each industry were reported as:
|HR||Age discrimination when job hunting (25%)|
|IT and Telecommunications||Race discrimination in the workplace (14%)|
|Legal||Gender discrimination in the workplace (22%)|
|Finance||Race discrimination in the workplace (14%)|
|Arts & Culture||Age or gender discrimination when job hunting (both 15%), and discrimination on the basis of age or sexual orientation in the workplace (both 15%)|
|Education||Age discrimination when job hunting (13%)|
|Sales, Media & Marketing||Discrimination due to being clinically vulnerable or at higher risk of serious illness when job hunting during the pandemic (17%)|
|Healthcare||Age discrimination when job hunting (10%)|
|Manufacturing & Utilities||Age discrimination when job hunting (8.4%)|
|Retail, Catering & Leisure||Age discrimination when job hunting (11%)|
|Architecture, Engineering & Building||Discrimination due to being clinically vulnerable or at higher risk of serious illness when job hunting during the pandemic (11%)|
|Travel & Transport||Age discrimination when job hunting (19%)|
According to the survey results, the industries and professions reporting the highest levels of the following forms of workplace discrimination are:
We took a closer look at where our 2,000 survey respondents live to determine which parts of the UK report experiencing the most work-related discrimination.
The city where people report the highest rates of workplace discrimination is London, where a staggering 46% of adults say they’ve experienced work-related discrimination of some kind.
London is followed by Brighton, Nottingham, Manchester and Birmingham, where over a third of people feel they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace or turned down from a job due to discrimination.
Percentage of adults who say they’ve experienced discrimination of some kind in the workplace or when applying for a job (the UK average is 36%):
|Percentage of people reporting discrimination|
|East of England||14%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||8%|
|Percentage of people reporting discrimination|
|East of England||19%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||15%|
Over half of the adults (54%) living in Greater London – home to over nine million people – report experiencing discrimination at work or when applying for work. That’s well above the UK average of 36%.
The most common forms of discrimination – reported by over one in ten people living in Greater London, are:
While around one in 14 adults in Greater London say they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace and when applying for jobs (7.2% and 8.4% respectively). About the same number (7.6%) feel that their sexuality has been a factor in not getting jobs they’ve applied for.
Workplace disputes can often lead to employment tribunals, where the matter is heard and a decision is made on how the dispute should be resolved. Employment tribunals take place for a wide range of reasons, such as breaches of contract, unfair dismissals and public interest disclosures.
We looked to discover how often issues related to discrimination in the workplace are brought to a tribunal. To do this we analysed data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service from the years 2014 to 2018. This allowed us to discover which forms of discrimination were brought to employment tribunals in England and Wales the most during this period.
Our analysis found:
Proportion of employment tribunals in England and Wales in 2017/18 relating to each type of discrimination.
The government’s most recent survey of Employment Tribunal Applications found that discrimination cases are some of the least successful types of hearings. Their survey revealed that:
One important factor to consider when making a claim for workplace discrimination is the compensation award that could be available to you.
Compensation totals vary significantly from case to case and are based on factors such as financial loss, injury to feelings, personal injury and aggravated damages.
To find out how discrimination in the workplace has changed over time, we examined data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service for a four-year period commencing in 2014.
Our research found:
|Disability discrimination tribunals||3,113||3,478||3,807||5,488|
Tribunals relating to disability discrimination (graph created using data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service)
Tribunals relating to sexual orientation discrimination (graph created using data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service)
Tribunals relating to race discrimination (graph created using data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service)
All employees at UK workplaces have the right to not be dismissed unfairly. Tribunal hearings for unfair dismissals can take place for a wide variety of reasons and when successful, can result in thousands of pounds of compensation. Our research found that:
Unfair dismissals are closely linked to discrimination, with many cases often involving discrimination of some kind. This could be due to a range of factors such as pregnancy, an individual’s request to take time off work for family reasons or even due to having been involved in whistleblowing.
To find out how many people in the UK consider making a claim due to an unfair dismissal of some kind, we analysed online search volumes for terms related to the topic. Our analysis was carried out in August 2021, using the tool Keyword Finder, and found that:
Average search volumes over the last 5 years for ‘unfair dismissal claim’. Data obtained using the Keyword Finder tool.
To find out more about the prevalence of bullying and discrimination in UK workplaces, we also conducted a keyword analysis for terms relating to this topic. Our analysis found that:
Average search volumes over the last 5 years for ‘racism in the workplace’. Data obtained using the Keyword Finder tool.
(Note: Data unavailable for Jan – Apr 2016 and Aug 2017 – Mar 2018)
Not only should HR teams ensure that the workplace has zero-tolerance for discrimination, they should also be actively enforcing this message.
If any form of discrimination exists within your organisation, then tackling discrimination should be at the forefront of your people strategy – a change of mentality through education and a continuous reappraisal of shared values. As shared in a recent CIPHR webinar with Amberjack on diversity and inclusion in recruitment, HR should look to address unconscious bias – otherwise, real change in workplace culture is unlikely to happen.
A few initiatives can include: