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The Equality Act and protected characteristics

The Equality Act of 2010 brought together various anti-discrimination laws into one single act, so any unlawful treatment (discrimination, harassment or victimisation) relating to one of the Equality Act protected characteristics, since 2010 is covered by this area of employment law.

Discrimination can be direct or indirect – which is why care must be taken when for example, making a change or in reviewing employment policy, practice or criteria used in the workplace. 

The characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010 are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

The Act also provides for protection against discrimination by association, which provides protection for people who are discriminated against because someone close to them falls under the definition of one of the protected characteristics. 

The ACAS website provides useful information about discrimination at work, and how an employer should approach a situation where they want to rely on an objective justification to make a decision based on one of the protective characteristics – for example during a recruitment process.

The public sector Equality Duty

The specific duties require public bodies to publish relevant, proportionate information showing compliance with the Equality Duty, and to set equality objectives.

List of Bodies covered by the public sector Equality Duty (which comes from section 149 of the Equality Act 2010).

Further information and guides to the public sector Equality Duty, which is likely to include all parts of the local government workforce.


Diverse by Design

The information on the LGA Workforce EDI pages gives specific advice on some of the protected characteristics. Our Diverse by Design hub gives an overview of how to really embed EDI principles within your employment offer. 

LGA Employment Relations Unit (ERU) employment law guides