The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.
It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:
- being or becoming a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
These are called ‘protected characteristics’.
People are protected from discrimination:
- at work
- in education
- as a consumer
- when using public services
- when buying or renting property
- as a member or guest of a private club or association
People are also protected from discrimination if:
- they are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, e.g. a family member or friend
- they have complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim
Discrimination can come in one of the following forms:
- direct discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others.
- indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage.
- harassment – unwanted behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them.
- victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment.