Support for members seeing/experiencing discrimination 

The College opposes all forms of discrimination and wants to ensure members who witness or experience it can ensure these instances are challenged.

Below is a description of what discrimination can look like from the perspective of someone working in mental healthcare, as well as possible steps available to challenge such instances.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic. The Act covers the whole spectrum of employment including recruitment, training, promotion, terms and conditions, redundancy, discipline and dismissal. Individuals are protected from discrimination in a number of contexts including employment, access to goods and services, education and housing.

Discrimination or prohibited conduct can take a number of forms:

  • direct discrimination – when you are treated less favourably on the grounds of your protected characteristic. For example, not employing a nurse because they are of African origin.
  • discrimination by association – discrimination against someone because of their connection/association with someone with a protected characteristic. For example, someone being dismissed because they have had to take time off to care for a disabled relative, even though colleagues with similar or higher levels of absence have not been disciplined for taking time off.
  • discrimination by perception – discrimination against someone because they are perceived to possess a protected characteristic. For example, not employing a nurse because the employer (mistakenly) believes the nurse to be gay.
  • indirect discrimination – where a provision, criterion or practice that puts someone with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage when compared to others who do not share the same characteristic. It may be possible for an employer to justify indirect discrimination on the grounds that the activity in question was objectively justifiable as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
  • harassment – unwanted conduct that is related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile or degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. For example, being subject to abuse because you are undergoing gender reassignment.
  • victimisation – being subject to detrimental treatment because you have undertaken a ‘protected act’. The protected acts include - making a claim or complaint of discrimination under the act; helping someone else to make a claim by giving evidence or information (for example in an Employment Tribunal); making an allegation that someone has breached the act (via a grievance process or civil claim) or done anything else in connection with the act (for example requesting flexible working, reasonable adjustments etc.).

If you feel you are being discriminated against, you should firstly read your employer’s equality and diversity policy and speak to your line manager about your concerns. We have listed the point of access to the equality and diversity policies in each health board, and these should also contain guidance as to additional steps that can be taken if your manager's response is unsatisfactory.

The Psychiatrists' Support Service (PSS) provides free, rapid, high quality peer support by telephone to psychiatrists of all grades who may be experiencing personal or work-related difficulties.

Our service is totally confidential and delivered by trained Doctor Advisor College members.

Get in touch with the support service:

  • Call our dedicated telephone helpline on 020 8618 4020
  • Email us in confidence at pss@rcpsych.ac.uk

The service is available during office hours Monday to Friday.

If you are finding your mental health is impacted by these incidents, please access the National Wellbeing Hub for further advice on available support. If it develops into a more serious condition, please do not hesitate to access the Workforce Specialist Service.

Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry