Types of Discrimination

The different types of discrimination which may be experienced by an individual or group of people, and information on reporting incidents and accessing support.

If any member of staff at the University of Kent is subject to any form of discrimination or harassment, they are able to report the incident using the staff reporting procedure.

Direct Discrimination

Different treatment of two individuals where the reason for the difference in treatment is a protected characteristic.

Direct Discrimination may occur if, for example: 

  • an institution only shortlists male job applicants for an interview because they assume women will not fit in
  • an institution refuses to let a student go on a residential trip because they are a wheelchair-user
  • an institution does not offer a training opportunity to an older member of staff because they assume that they would not be interested, and the opportunity is given to a younger worker.

Discrimination based on association

Where a person does not have a protected characteristic themselves but is treated less favourably because of their relationship with someone who does e.g. the parent of a disabled child.

Discrimination based on association can occur if, for example:

  • a student, whose child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is refused access to a graduation ceremony because of fears about the child’s behaviour
  • an employee is overlooked for promotion because their partner has undergone gender reassignment

Discrimination based on perception

Acting or behaving in a discriminatory way towards a person due to the belief that they have a protected characteristic, whether or not they have such a characteristic.

Discrimination based on perception can occur if, for example:

  • a mental health and wellbeing officer refuses to work with a student because they believe the student to be gay, irrespective of whether the student is gay or not

Indirect Discrimination

A practice or policy or action which may at first appear neutral in its operation, but at closer examination disproportionately and adversely affects  persons with a protected characteristic.

Indirect Discrimination may occur if, for example:

    • An employer requires staff to commit to working from 8pm to 11pm every evening. This has a disproportionately adverse effect on women, who are more likely to be primary carers of children and therefore unable to meet the requirement. It will be indirectly discriminatory unless it can be objectively justified. A practice, policy or action will be objectively justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. To be legitimate, the aim must be genuine and not discriminatory in itself. To be proportionate, the requirement must be appropriate and necessary, and be fairly balanced against the disadvantage it creates. 

Discrimination arising from a disability

Discrimination arising from a disability can occur if, for example:

  • a student with diabetes, wishing to take food into an exam hall in case of low blood sugar, is not allowed to do so as it is against policy allowing food into exam halls – the institution may be discriminating against the student unless the treatment can be justified.


Unwanted conduct related to a person's protected characteristic/s which has the purpose or effect either of violating a person's dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

Harassment may occur if, for example:

  • a member of staff makes comments on a student’s sexuality in a way that makes the student feel dehumanised, intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.


Victimisation may occur if, for example:

  • a student alleges that they have encountered racism from a tutor, and as a result they are ignored by other staff members.
  • a senior member of staff starts to behave in a hostile manner to another member of staff who previously supported a colleague in submitting a formal complaint against the senior manager for sexist behaviour.
  • an employer brands an employee as a ‘troublemaker’ because they raised a lack of job-share opportunities as being potentially discriminatory.
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