Disability / Discrimination

What can I do if I’m discriminated against?

How do I make a complaint?

If you think you’ve been discriminated against, the first place to start is by raising the issue informally with the organisation concerned. This may quickly resolve the issue, prevent it from getting worse and avoid the expense and stress of legal action.

If an informal complaint doesn’t work, the next step is to make a formal complaint. Ask the organisation you’re complaining about for a copy of their complaints procedure.

You may be able to get help on drafting your discrimination complaint from Citizens Advice or a local law centre.

If you’re making a complaint against the police because they’ve been rude, aggressive, or unhelpful, make it clear that you are alleging discrimination, because there are specific guidelines they must follow for discrimination complaints.

We have a separate page on how to make a police complaint, or you can read more about police discrimination. We also have a specific page on police complaints for disabled people.

How do I take it further?

If your complaint is not resolved by following the relevant complaints procedure, you may be able to escalate it to an ombudsman. An ombudsman is an impartial body that can look into complaints about companies and organisations. They are independent, impartial and free to use.

For example, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman can look into complaints against a local council, or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (the police ombudsman) can look into complaints about the police. The Ombudsman Association provides further information on finding the appropriate ombudsman for your complaint.

An ombudsman’s decision could include recommending that the organisation:

  • apologises
  • changes processes or procedures
  • disciplines the employees involved, or
  • in certain limited circumstances, pays compensation for distress and inconvenience.

Should I take legal action?

If you’re unable to resolve your grievance through the complaints procedure or you don’t think you’ll be able to get the outcome you’re looking for, you may decide to take legal action by bringing a discrimination claim through the courts.

If you are considering legal action, it’s important to get professional legal advice as soon as possible so you understand whether or not you have a strong claim, and to be aware of the financial costs involved.

For help finding a lawyer, see our I need a lawyer page. You may also be able to get advice from Citizens Advice.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for Legal Aid to cover the costs of your claim. Use this online tool to check if you are eligible for Legal Aid, or you can contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 (9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 12.30pm Saturday).

When should I take legal action?

The time limit to bring a discrimination claim under the Equality Act is:

  • three months less one day from when the discrimination happened if it was in the employment context, or
  • six months less one day from when the discrimination happened in other contexts.

Consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Before going to court, you might want to try ADR to resolve the issue. ADR includes mediation, conciliation and arbitration. This is where people who are on different sides of a dispute use an independent professional called a mediator, conciliator or arbitrator to help resolve a problem. If you wish to take legal action, the courts now generally expect you to have considered using ADR before starting court action. ADR can be quicker and cheaper than going to court.

For help finding a mediator, you can use this search tool.

Other sources of help on discrimination law

For free advice and information about discrimination law, you can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS).

The EASS provides advice to people in England, Scotland and Wales on discrimination issues and can explain to you your rights under the Equality Act, how it applies and the remedies that may be available to you. However, they cannot provide you with legal advice or representation.

The EASS helpline can be contacted on 0808 800 0082 (9am to 7pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm Saturday).

The Disability Law Service provides advice and support specifically on disability discrimination.

Citizens Advice also provides wide-ranging advice on discrimination, including making a claim.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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