The Protected Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010

Published: 13 May 2021 to 31 December 2098

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1st October 2010 and was introduced to bring together a complex set of overlapping legislation into one simplified and harmonious Act. This new Act brought together previous legislation including the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and additional delegated legislation which prevented discrimination in employment on the basis of religion, belief, sexual orientation and age.

Whilst in general the Act covers employment and strengthens laws to give greater protection to employees from discrimination it does also cover some aspects of discrimination outside of employment. Most significantly, the Equality Act 2010 sets out a requirement for employers to assure equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the individuals ‘protected characteristics’, which are listed below.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The Equality Act 2010 applies to all individuals, providers of services and employers. We live in a complex society made up of people from diverse backgrounds and with a range of needs and requirements. This means someone may be seen as advantaged in some areas and, at the same time, disadvantaged in others. For example, around 77 per cent of the NHS workforce are women, but women are under-represented in certain senior roles.

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