Discrimination - time limits for taking legal action
The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Act is unlawful. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you can take action under the Act.
This includes making a claim in the civil courts. You need to make your claim within specific time limits, otherwise the courts won’t generally accept it.
Read this page to find out more about the time limits for making your discrimination claim. This page doesn't cover discrimination in the workplace as there are different time limits.
Try to be as accurate as you can on when you suffered discrimination as your time limit may start running from that date.
Get your claim in as early as possible to avoid problems with time limits.
Take advice if you are in doubt as time limits are important and can be complicated.
What are the time limits for making your court claim?
You need to make your claim in court within 6 months less one day from when the discrimination happened. The court must have received your claim before the end of the time limit, it’s not enough just to post it.
For example, if the discrimination happened on the 13 February, the court must receive your claim before midnight on the 12 August.
If you've been discriminated against at work the time limit is 3 months.
Working out how the time limit applies to your case
It can be difficult to work out when the discrimination happened. Sometimes it may be just one incident. But sometimes the discrimination may be behaviour which extends over time.
You’re blind and a restaurant refuses you entry because you have a guide dog and they have a no dogs policy. You’ve tried to sort out the problem informally and formally but the restaurant still won’t accept they’ve done anything wrong. You have 6 months less one day from the date you went to the restaurant to put in a court claim.
Discrimination which takes place over a period of time
If the discrimination takes place over a period of time, the time limit starts to run at the end of that period of time. The discrimination is said to be continuing. If the incidents are isolated or unconnected, the discrimination isn’t continuing and the time limit runs from each of the separate incidents.
If necessary, it’s the courts which will decide if the discrimination is continuing and if your claim was brought in time.
If in doubt about how the time limit may affect your case, you should seek help from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
You’re Black. Every time you go to the gym, the receptionist who signs you in ignores you, making you wait longer than any white customer and makes racist comments.
Despite confronting her, this goes on for several weeks before you get so upset at another comment that you decide to leave the gym.
You have 6 months less one day from when you leave the gym after the last comment to put in a court claim. The time doesn’t start running from the date of the first incident because the discrimination has been continuous from then until the last incident.
If someone fails to do something
Sometimes discrimination happens because someone doesn’t do something they should have done under the Equality Act - for example, if a bank doesn’t make reasonable adjustments to allow you to use or access their services. In this case, the time limit starts to run when they make the decision not to do it or, in some cases, after a reasonable period in which they would have been expected to comply with their duty.
Again time limits in these circumstances can be complicated and you should take specialist advice on how it might affect your case - for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau.
You’re deaf and you ask your local Jobcentre to provide a BSL interpreter when you come and see an adviser. The Jobcentre tells you they will look into providing an interpreter but one is never provided for your interviews. This is a failure to make a reasonable adjustment contrary to the Equality Act.
In this case, the time limit would run from when the Jobcentre took the decision not to provide you with a BSL interpreter or if there was no formal decision from a reasonable period - say 2 weeks - after you made your request.
What happens if you don’t make your claim within the time limit?
If you don’t make your claim within the time limit, the courts can only accept your claim if they think it’s just and equitable to do so. This means they will only accept an out of time claim if they think it’s fair to you and the person or organisation you’re taking action against.
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at