Protected characteristics are the unique attributes of people which are protected under the Equality Act 2010. Everyone has one or more of the protected characteristics which are listed in Section 4 of the Equality Act 2010.
S13(1) of the Equality Act says that a person discriminates against another if he treats the other person less favourably because of a protected characteristic. Section 19 defines indirect discrimination as being where an apparently neutral policy, rule, practice or guideline is applied generally but particularly disadvantages people with a protected characteristic. This policy, rule, practice or guideline is called “provision, criterion or practice” (PCP) in the Act.
The Protected Characteristics are;
Section 5 Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of age. The age criterion includes whether that person is older or younger than a relevant and comparable employee.
Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantially adverse and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Section 6 Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their disability.
Gender reassignment is a personal, social, and sometimes medical process by which a person’s gender appears to others to have changed. Anyone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender is protected from discrimination under Section 7 Equality Act 2010. A person does not need to be undergoing medical supervision to be protected.
Marriage and Civil Partnership
Section 8 of the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because they are married or in a civil partnership.Marriage is not restricted to a union between a man and a woman but also includes marriage between a same-sex couple. Same-sex couples can also have their relationships legally recognised as ‘civil partnerships’. Civil partners must not be treated less favourably than married couples (except where it is permitted by the Equality Act).
Pregnancy and Maternity
Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and includes maternity leave. Section 4 and Section 18 Equality Act 2010 make it unlawful to discriminate or treat employees unfavourably because of their pregnancy, or because they have given birth recently, are breastfeeding or on maternity leave.
Maternity Action – Pregnancy discrimination
Section 9 Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of race. Race includes colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin.
The caste system is a historical concept that is traditionally rooted in the Hindu community in India, but is also found in other parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The caste system divides people into separate groups based on birth, marriage and occupation. Its effect is to create a hierarchy within a community. Caste is to be added to the list of protected characteristics under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
Religion or Belief
Section 10 Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their religion or belief. Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief. Your belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition.
EHRC – Sex Discrimination
- orientation towards people of the same sex (lesbians and gay men)
- orientation towards people of the opposite sex (heterosexual)
- orientation towards people of the same sex and the opposite sex (bisexual)
Last Updated: [06/01/2022]