A short guide to The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act came in to effect in October 2010. Its main purpose was to consolidate and simplify the nine anti-discrimination acts already in place as well as strengthening the law in some areas.

Most of the law has remained the same; however there are a few significant changes:

Protected Characteristics

The key strands of age, religion or belief, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment (a new definition under the act), marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity are now known as Protected Characteristics.

Types of Discrimination

There are now seven different types of discrimination:

Direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment remain. However, direct discrimination and indirect discrimination have been extended to cover disability, sex and gender reassignment. With victimisation and harassment, the victim now just needs to prove that they have been treated badly.

Associative discrimination is discrimination through direct discrimination against someone with a protective characteristic (i.e. a worker overlooked for a promotion because they have a disabled child who the employer believes will take up the worker’s time).

Harassment by a third party is where an employee or member of the public is harassed by someone not directly employed by the company such as a contractor.

Discrimination by perception is discrimination against someone who is believed to have a protected characteristic, even if they in fact don’t. Disability related discrimination is no longer listed as a distinct type of discrimination.


The test determining disability has changed under the act to include a person who has difficulty carrying out their day-to-day work, rather than just a particular impairment affecting a certain ability such as hearing or eyesight.

Employers are generally no longer able to ask questions about health or a disability before offering a job.


Employees are now free to discuss their salary with each other and trade union representatives.


Associative discrimination type is particularly pertinent for carers. Furthermore, direct discrimination and harassment of a carer because they care for a disabled person are now banned when the carer shops for goods or services and when they use public facilities.


Under the act, a transexual person no longer has to show that they are under medical supervision to qualify for protection from discrimination.

Clubs and associations

Discrimination laws for clubs member selection, have now been extended to include sex, religion or belief, the fact that you are a transexual or if you have a baby or are pregnant.


Charities which only benefit members of the same religion, racial group or sexual orientation must now demonstrate that they are doing so in a fair, balanced and reasonable way with a legitimate objective in mind.

Breast feeding

The act makes it unlawful for someone breast feeding to receive less favourable treatment whilst receiving services. For example a breast feeding mother could not be asked to leave a public cafe.

Dual Discrimination

Claims can now be made for ‘dual discrimination’, where two protected characteristics have been discriminated against. Previously each discrimination would have been considered separately.

The full act can be found at:  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

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