Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination in the workplace continues to be a pervasive problem that affects millions of employees globally. Despite efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity, recent studies suggest that discrimination is still a prevalent issue. The studies detailed here revealed that age, gender, race, and sexual orientation are the most common triggers for discrimination. The studies also revealed that women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in senior roles, and many face difficulties accessing finance to start their own businesses. Discrimination in the workplace can result in negative impacts on mental health and the ability to perform job duties. Employers must address and take steps to eradicate discrimination in the workplace to ensure that all employees feel valued and respected.


One such study conducted by Glassdoor in 2019 surveyed 5,241 adults aged 18 and older in the US, UK, France, and Germany, of which 3,137 were employed full-time, part-time, or self-employed. The study found that up to 55% of employees in the UK have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on their gender, age, race, or sexual orientation. Age (39%) and gender (37%) were the most common triggers for discrimination, with London reporting the highest discrimination rate. Moreover, employees working in art and culture showed the highest level of discrimination at 63%.



A 2021 investigation by CIPHR, consisting of a survey of 2,000 UK adults, an analysis of online search trends and an examination of employment tribunals, found that more than a third (36%) of UK adults report experiencing workplace discrimination. Age discrimination was the most common form of discrimination reported, with more than 1 in 10 adults in the UK saying that their age has been a factor in not getting jobs they’ve applied for. HR employees were the most likely to feel that they have been discriminated against, with almost 79% of people working in an HR function saying they’ve experienced workplace discrimination of some kind. Londoners were more likely to say they have been discriminated against in the workplace than people from any other UK city.

The second most common reason reported for discrimination in the workplace is gender, with more than 1 in 20 UK adults (5.3%) saying they’ve experienced discrimination at work on the basis of their gender and 4.7% reporting that they’ve been refused a job due to gender discrimination.

The study also found that issues related to discrimination in the workplace often lead to employment tribunals. They looked at data obtained from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service from the years 2014 to 2018. They found that the most common were disputes related to equal pay (62%), followed by tribunals relating to age (12%), then gender (9.6%) and disability (9.6%).

They also found that only 26% of discrimination cases that went to a full tribunal hearing in 2018 were successful and that, in general, discrimination cases were the most unsuccessful types of hearings.


In the NHS, the 2019 staff survey revealed that white staff were less likely than other ethnic groups to have experienced discrimination at work. For example, 6% of white NHS staff in England said they had experienced discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or other colleagues in the last 12 months, compared with 15% of staff from the other ethnic group (all other ethnic groups combined). This was consistent across all regions, with London recording the highest percentage of staff from the other ethnic group who had experienced discrimination at 15%, compared to 8% of white staff. 

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

The UK Government tasked the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities with investigating race and ethnic disparities in the UK. They found that Asian and other ethnic minorities face more difficulties accessing finance to start their own businesses than their white British counterparts, with 49% citing this as a reason for abandoning their entrepreneurial ideas, compared to just 25% of white British people.

They found that business owners from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately declined for lending, resulting in a feeling of systemic disadvantage and discouragement. 


The Trade Union Congress found that 70% of ethnic minority workers had experienced racial harassment at work within the last five years, and nearly 60% had been subjected to unfair treatment by their employers because of their race. Almost half reported that racism had negatively impacted their ability to do their job, and nearly half had been subject to verbal abuse and racist jokes. A third reported being bullied and subjected to insensitive questioning, while part-time or non-permanent employees were more likely to report harassment and discrimination. 28% had ended up on sick leave due to the harassment.

General findings

Druthers, an executive search firm in London, summarised studies into diversity and inclusion from across the UK and the US. The studies found that only 19.7% of senior roles are held by women and that their hiring chances can increase up to 46% if they apply through blind applications.

In the UK, the overall employment rate for ethnic minorities is only 62.8%, and they hold only 1 in 16 top management positions.

67.5% of LGBTQ+ employees reported hearing negative slurs, jokes or comments about LGBTQ+ people at work and 29.8% experienced at least one form of employment discrimination.

Shockingly the UK unemployment rate for autistic adults is 78%.

Employees from a working-class background earn, on average, 17% less than those from a middle-class background despite having the same educational qualifications. An inclination to hire for cultural fit meant that applicants from working-class backgrounds were unconsciously discriminated against. They are also less likely to go into professions such as medicine, finance and law even when they achieve higher grades than those from wealthier backgrounds.


In conclusion, discrimination in the workplace is still a significant problem that affects people from diverse backgrounds. The research reveals that discrimination persists despite ongoing efforts to address the issue. The findings suggest that employers must do more to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace that values and respects all employees. Promoting diversity, implementing blind applications, and addressing systemic barriers can increase the hiring and retention of underrepresented groups and promote a more inclusive work culture. By creating a fair and equitable workplace, employers can improve employee satisfaction, mental health, and productivity, leading to a more successful and prosperous business.