How to Prove Hidden Discrimination In the Promotion Process at Your Job

Written by Calvin Bowers
Last updated Saturday September 10 2022

Promotions can be a tricky subject for anyone. Everyone wants to be promoted at some point or another and then it doesn’t happen. For a disabled person, promotions can be more than tricky; they can be a source of inequality and discrimination.

To help protect you from this, we have created this blog. This blog is going to tell you all about discrimination within promotion processes, how to spot it, and how to deal with it. Discrimination within promotion protocols is often a more hidden form of discrimination. One that can fly under the radar. We don’t want that to be the case for you. We want you to know your rights and know how to keep safe at work.

So, without any further ado, let’s get into talking about the hidden discrimination that often lurks behind promotional doors. 

What Is the Definition of Discrimination?

Before we get started, we need to pin down exactly what is meant by discrimination. If we don’t know what discrimination looks like, we can’t spot it and we can’t report it. This is the first step in knowing our rights. 

The four types of discrimination can be defined as follows:

  • Direct Discrimination: “treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others” 
  • Indirect Discrimination:  “putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage”
  • Harrassment: unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them”
  • Victimisation: “treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment

Protected characteristics are outlined by the Equality Act of 2010 and you can read more about them in our easy-read guide. In short, they are factors that cannot be discriminated against in any part of employment. They include:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity 
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex, and
  • Sexual orientation

If any decision is made about your employment due to one of these characteristics, that is unlawful discrimination. The same goes for bullying, harassment, inappropriateness, and more. It is these characteristics that are referred to in the definitions above. 

When it comes to the land of promotions, any of these forms of discrimination could be present. The one that will be the hardest for you to prove, however, will be indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination can be very sneaky and secretive. It can, therefore, be even harder to speak out about. Acts of indirect discrimination can very often go uninvestigated and unreported due to these facts. It is, therefore, this form of discrimination we want to talk about a bit more in this blog.

Tell-Tale Signs of Discrimination Within Promotions

As indirect discrimination is more likely to go unnoticed, we need to know what signs we are looking out. Especially when it comes to promotions. Here are some red flags that you might notice during promotion procedures, these might suggest discrimination is happening:

  • The promotion isn’t advertised as an open vacancy 
  • Employees on leave (including maternity leave) aren’t informed of any promotion opportunities
  • The role is described with ableist and non-inclusive language
  • Assumptions are made about certain members of staff and their willingness to take on a promotion
  • The interview/application process doesn’t offer modifications or reasonable adjustments for disabled members of staff

If you notice any of these things occurring around a promotion, take a note. Gather all evidence that you have and keep a record of events. You can ask your employer for any information held about you under the Freedom of Information Act too so don’t forget the rest of your rights when collecting this evidence. Any data held about you can be accessed by you. If you have a feeling that decisions have been made based on your disability, ask to see your notes.

Once you have curated all of this information, seek external support. A great first point of call is Citizen’s Advice. You can use their free services to find out what your next steps should be. 

When It Isn’t Discrimination

While it is important to be watchful for any signs of discrimination, it is also important to remember that it isn’t always discrimination when you aren’t promoted as a disabled person. Or someone from any protected characteristic. 

There are legitimate reasons that employers can have for not giving you a promotion, such as your job performance or experience in a certain field. What we are looking out for are instances of people with protected characteristics being treated differently or excluded in the promotion process. If a clear difference is being made or things are being hidden, this is when we take note.

This is another reason why it is good to assemble evidence first. And ask for data. You need to find out as much as possible about the promotion process before we jump to conclusions. It is always good to get our facts straight.

What Next?

If you see discrimination, report it. Check out this gov.uk page for more information.

Everyone should be treated and considered equally when it comes to promotions. A protected characteristic doesn’t influence your ability to do a certain role and it shouldn’t take you out of the running. Remember your rights and stand up for yourself whenever you can.

You might also be considering a change of workplace if you are witnessing discrimination. That makes a lot of sense. You deserve to work somewhere you are seen as equal to your non-disabled colleagues. If this is the case, make sure to check out both our live job board and our list of company profiles on Careers with Disabilities.

We help diverse jobseekers find the employers and jobs that work for them, not against. If you are fed up with working in unequal and inaccessible companies, you will be more than ready for a change. A change to inclusive working. If that is the case, don’t waste any more time and find your new career with us today.

Hopefully you will get promoted time and time again going forward!

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Last Updated: Saturday September 10 2022

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