What is 'associative discrimination'?
- Date: Wednesday 18th December 2019
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Although still relatively rare, we have recently seen an increasing number of cases relating to ‘associative discrimination’, which means that an individual has been discriminated against on the grounds of protected characteristics of another individual.
Associative discrimination can occur when employers unwittingly make decisions regarding an employee’s work activities, without considering the wider circumstances.
Disciplining someone for a bad attendance record, when they are in fact providing care for an elderly relative.
Turning down someone’s request for flexible working, which was submitted to provide support for a disabled family member.
Discriminating against someone following association with an individual or group involved in whistleblowing.
How to avoid the pitfalls
Before considering any action, employers should carefully review all circumstances surrounding the issue. This usually involves conversations with the individual, appointing an independent investigator and keeping detailed notes of conversations. Don’t forget that reasonable adjustments have to be considered for individuals affected by association and any adverse decisions should be justified accordingly and open to appeal.