Under the Equality Act 2010 there are 9 protected characteristics. It is important to recognise that we all have at least 5 of these – and some of us more.

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The 9 protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010

There are four different categories of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010:

  1. Direct discrimination
  2. Discrimination by association
  3. Discrimination by perception
  4. Indirect discrimination

What is direct discrimination?

This occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic. So, for example, if you deny someone a job because they are Asian, this is direct discrimination based on race/ethnicity.

What is discrimination by association?

This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic. This category of discrimination does not apply to marriage & civil partnership or pregnancy & maternity. So, for example, if you deny service to someone because their partner is transgender, then this is discrimination.

What is discrimination by perception?

This is discrimination against an individual because you think they possess a protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic. So, for example, if you deny someone a promotion because you think they are bisexual (and they are not), it still constitutes discrimination. This category of discrimination does not apply to marriage & civil partnership or pregnancy & maternity.

What is indirect discrimination?

This occurs when a company or organisation has a rule, policy or practice which applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. An example of this form of discrimination is having a working late policy which does not take into account those who may have caring responsibilities for a child with a disability. A company would need to justify it’s inability to make suitable adjustments for an employee in this position.

Discrimination under Equality Act 2010