Equality law in the UK is covered by a single act called the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act protects us all by making it against the law to discriminate against or harass someone because of who they are.
The 9 protected characteristics
It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
The 4 kinds of discrimination
Discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 includes:
- Direct discrimination – treating one person worse than another person because of a protected characteristic.
- Indirect discrimination – when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one.
- Harassment – being treated in a way that violates your dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
- Victimisation – this means people cannot treat you unfairly if you are taking action under the Equality Act.
Exemptions and exceptions
Sometimes discrimination is lawful if an employer can objectively justify discrimination as ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.’ For example, if applicants for a job must have a particular protected characteristic because that is essential for the role.
If you are considered a public authority then your organisation must fulfil the Equality Duty which entails general and specific responsibilities.
The general duty is about considering the needs of all individuals in your day-to-day work by having due regard for the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act.
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
The specific duties are activities which evidence your compliance with the Equality Duty and include:
- Publishing information to show their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually.
- Setting and publishing equality objectives, at least every four years.
Please click on any of the following topics for more detailed information about the Equality Act 2010.