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Equality Act 2010

Updated on January 25, 2012

The provisions for the Equality Act of 2010 have amended the previous Act to include new definitions to create a more protected and inclusive Act for the people who have protected characteristics. Knowledge on the key important features of the new Equality Act is imperative for both the employees and employer as it will help both parties to adjust the policies, standards, and procedures of the company while at the same time help employees be better informed of their rights. The nine protected characteristics that the Equality Act of 2010 includes age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. Before discussing the nine protected characteristics, some key words to consider are direct discrimination which “occurs when someone is treated less favorably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have”; or are associated with a protected characteristic as in associative discrimination; or thought to have as in perceptive discrimination; or when company policies, procedures, and standards discriminates employees with protected characteristics, called indirect discrimination. Other key terms also include harassment and victimization which already includes violence and threat to the well-being of a person.


In terms of provisions on discrimination against age, there are no changes. It is unlawful to be discriminated—if you could prove it, based on age. The compulsory, mandatory retirement age is still at 65.

The new Act has new provisions and definition for Disability characterized as a condition of a person who have a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” The Act also included new provisions that further protect employees from discrimination by ensuring that they are protected from discrimination based on their disability and that employees must put on effort to help assist employees with their disabilities by making the workplace more ‘user-friendly’ based on their needs. Previous provisions also apply to current Act.

Gender reassignment is another protected characteristic that was given new definition for the protection of transsexual. In the new Act, a transsexual is someone who “proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender.” Under the new provision, the person no longer has to be under a medical condition to be protected. Undergoing gender reassignment is no longer considered as a lifestyle choice but a medical procedure i.e. hormone treatment.

In terms of marriage and civil partnership; and pregnancy and maternity there are still no change in provisions as well as definitions. Married employees or those who are under civil unions are barred from being discriminated—does not apply for single people. Likewise, pregnant women are given all the benefits and maternity leaves she is entitled too and is also barred from being discriminated.

Similarly, race; religion/ belief; sex; and sexual orientation have not been change in terms of provisions and definitions. Race still pertains to ethnicity, color of skin, nationality, and nation of origin. A person could belong to two racial minority—i.e. A Black Muslim, An Asian-Italian. Religion, belief or lack of protects employees from being discriminated based on their spiritual philosophy or religious belief (or lack of), but this does not include political belief. Discrimination based on religion could also occur even if both the discriminator and the recipient belong to the same religion.

Another protected characteristic is sex which means that both men and women should not be discriminated based on their gender.

And lastly, sexual orientation. The Act protects people whose sexual preference are categorized to be that of the third sex also called as gays, lesbians, heterosexuals, and bisexual people.


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