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Discrimination in everyday life

Explains the law that protects you from discrimination by organisations or people that provide goods, facilities or services. Explains what you can do if you have been discriminated against and where you can get support and advice.

How can I make a complaint about discrimination?

If you think you have been discriminated against by an organisation that provides a service or public function, there are a number of things you can do. What is best for you will depend on exactly what has happened, but generally it is best to try to sort it out informally if you can.

Raise the issue informally

Depending on the kind of problem, you should try to resolve the problem first informally by raising it with the service provider or the customer services or complaints department if there is one.

You could do this by phoning or talking to a member of staff or their manager, and it is a good idea to make a note of what is said. If you are worried about this then you can get advice and you may find it helpful to have an advocate.

Formal complaints procedure

If raising the issue informally doesn't resolve the problem, you can use the formal complaints procedure for that organisation.

Remember to:

  • date the letter
  • keep a copy of the letter or email
  • explain the discrimination you have experienced
  • explain what you would like to happen next – for example an apology or change of practice or compensation for losses you experienced because of the discrimination
  • keep the tone polite.

See our legal pages on complaining about health and social care. for more information about formal complaints procedures.

If this does not work then you may want to get advice about making a legal claim for disability discrimination.

Make a legal claim

If you want to make a legal claim, you would usually do this in the county court.

If you win your case, the court can order the other party to:

  • pay you compensation for financial costs and any injury to your feelings (damages)
  • make a public finding that there has been discrimination (a declaration)
  • make them do something, for example reasonable adjustments, and/or pay your costs.

If you lose your case:

  • the court can order you to pay the legal costs of the other party (unless you are in the small claims track). This can be very expensive. If you have legal aid, you can be protected against paying back the other side's costs, so it is important to speak to a legal adviser to check if you can get legal aid.

Time limits

There are time limits for making a claim:

  • A claim must be started within 6 months less one day of when the discrimination happened.
  • The court may allow a claim after this time limit if it thinks it is fair to do so, but you need to show that there are good reasons for being late.

Court fees

There are court fees for bringing discrimination claims in the county court:

  • There is a claim fee to start the case. How much you pay depends on whether you are claiming compensation and how much you want to claim.
  • There is a hearing fee before a judge listens to your evidence and decides whether you have proved your case. How much you pay depends on which of the three tracks that the judge places your claim in: small claims, fast track or multi track.
  • If you have a low income and limited savings, you may pay less fees or none. To apply for this you'll need to fill out an EX160A form.

Get support

You might want to see if you can get some support:

  • See if you can get help paying your legal fees. See our information on disability discrimination to find out more.
  • See if you can get extra support. Taking legal action can be complicated and stressful. If you want assistance and support, you could ask a friend or an advocate to help you.

If you're thinking about going to court, you should get advice from a specialist legal adviser. See Useful contacts for more information on where you can get legal advice.

This information was published in February 2018.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

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