Equality Act


The Equality Act 2010 is legislation which aims to tackle certain types of discrimination. There are nine protected characteristics which are incorporated into the Equality Act 2010. This Act makes it illegal to discriminate against or disadvantage an individual due to one of the nine protected characteristics. They are: pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, sex, religion/belief, and race.

Discrimination in Employment

Equality law applies right from the beginning of the recruitment process of any organisation, irrespective of its size, resources or type. It is illegal for an employer not to hire you because of any of the protected characteristics mentioned above. This is also true for employees once they are in employment. Employers are not allowed to treat their employees worse because of a protected characteristic. An example of this (which is known as direct discrimination), could be where a pregnant woman and a man are applying for the same job. If the employer decides to hire the man because of the fact that he is not pregnant (and will therefore not have to take maternity leave, time off etc), then he is directly discriminating against the woman because she is pregnant.

It is also illegal for employers to conduct indirect discrimination towards their employees. This could involve enacting a policy, or new regulations which would have a worse impact on an individual or a group of individuals who share a protected characteristic. The only exception where this can be done is if an employer can objectively justify his decision.

Discrimination also includes treating an individual differently because of a perception the employer has relating to a protected characteristic. For example, if an employer believes you are 50 years old, even though you are really 35, and therefore makes decisions relating to your career which prevent you from progressing (due to a belief you are now too old to progress), this is also discrimination.

It is important for workers/employees to note that discrimination by employers is not just related to policy decisions, recruitment decisions and other decisions in the workplace. It is also applies to very basic situations like pay and time off. For example, if your employer is paying you less than your male colleague (assume you are a woman), yet you are both doing the same job and using the same set of skills, this could be discrimination. Discrimination can also take the form of harassment. If you feel you are being harassed by your employer at work, it is advisable you speak to someone to find out what steps you need to take to deal with the situation.

Discrimination Encountered when Providing Services

Discrimination does not only occur in the workplace. All business selling goods and/or supplying services to the public need to behave in a certain way towards their consumers/potential consumers. These include (but are not limited to) banks, hairdressers, shops, estate agents, gyms, builders and restaurants.

Illegal discrimination can include, for example, a shop refusing to sell their goods to somebody because of their race/ethnic origin. Another example could be where a club/bar refuses to allow someone entry (or charges a higher price) because they are a man, but then lets in (charges a lower price to) a woman. It is important to note that the discrimination does not have to relate to a protected characteristic associated with you. If someone is discriminating against you based on a protected characteristic of someone you associate with, this is also discrimination.

Your Next Step if you feel you have been Discriminated Against

If you believe you are a victim of discrimination, we can advise you on the legal position.

If the discrimination is related to employment, it may be possible to bring a claim against your employer through an employment tribunal. It is advisable to seek legal advice should you decide to pursue this route. Ensure you are aware of all the deadlines surrounding a claim using an employment tribunal. The Tribunal may either recommend your employer stops the discrimination, pays you compensation, or allows you back to work (if they have dismissed you).

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.