Who is protected against discrimination?
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination because of one of the following protected characteristics:
This can refer to a particular age, or to an age group or range.
Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. “Long-term” means a condition has lasted or is likely to last at least 12 months, and the definition also covers past disability and can cover fluctuating/recurring conditions.
This covers people who are proposing to undergo, is undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) to reassign their sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.
Marriage and Civil Partnership
A person who is married or in a civil partnership has the protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership.
Pregnancy and Maternity
It is unlawful to treat a person unfavourably during the “protected period”, which begins at the start of the pregnancy and ends at the return to work at the end of maternity leave.
The Act defines ‘race’ as including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins.
Religion or Belief
This includes any religion and any religious or philosophical belief. It also includes a lack of any such religion or belief.
Sex or Gender
The act protects both men and women.
This means a person’s sexual orientation towards the same gender, a different gender or more than one gender.
What types of discrimination are there?
Direct discrimination occurs when a person treats another less favourably than they treat or would treat others because of a protected characteristic. This also includes discrimination by association (being treated less favourably because of an association with a person who has a protected characteristic) and discrimination by perception (being treated less favourably because the employer mistakenly thinks that the worker has a protected characteristic
Indirect discrimination may occur when an employer applies an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice which puts workers sharing a protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage.
The Equality Act prohibits both harassment related to a ‘relevant protected characteristic’ and sexual harassment. Like direct discrimination, harassment can also be by association or by perception.
Harassment because of a protected characteristic
This is defined as unwanted conduct which is related to a relevant protected characteristic and which has the purpose or the effect of violating the worker’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that worker. Unwanted conduct covers a wide range of behaviour, including spoken or written words or abuse, imagery, graffiti, physical gestures, facial expressions, mimicry, jokes, pranks, acts affecting a person’s surroundings or other physical behaviour. The word ‘unwanted’ means essentially the same as ‘unwelcome’ or ‘uninvited’. ‘Unwanted’ does not mean that express objection must be made to the conduct before it is deemed to be unwanted. A serious one-off incident can also amount to harassment.
Sexual harassment occurs when a person engages in unwanted conduct which is of a sexual nature. Conduct ‘of a sexual nature’ can cover verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct including unwelcome sexual advances, touching, forms of sexual assault, sexual jokes, displaying pornographic photographs or drawings or sending emails with material of a sexual nature.
Discrimination arising from disability
Employers have a duty not to treat disabled people unfavourably because of something connected with their disability. Protection from this type of discrimination only applies to disabled people.
In addition, employers have a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers in the workplace. This duty requires the employer to do more to reduce disadvantage for a disabled person than it would for someone who is not disabled. The duty to make reasonable adjustments comprises three requirements. Employers are required to take reasonable steps to:
- Avoid the substantial disadvantage where a provision, criterion or practice applied by or on behalf of the employer puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled.
- Remove or alter a physical feature or provide a reasonable means of avoiding such a feature where it puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled
- Provide an auxiliary aid or service where a disabled person would, but for the provision of that auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled
What do I do if I think I may have experienced discrimination?
Contact us as soon as possible and we will be able to advise you on your rights and what action you can take.