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Protected Characteristics

Who's Protected?

The Equality Act 2010 brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation to form one single Act.

The Act provides a legal framework to promote equality and opportunity for all and protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

The Act can be applied in many different ways; one of its main features is Protected Characteristics.

Protected Characteristics refers to groups of people who are more likely to be discriminated against or disadvantaged because of a characteristic they share. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with a Protected Characteristic, but what exactly are these Protected Characteristics?


Age discrimination is when you are treated unfairly because of your age or because you’re part of a particular age group.


It’s unlawful to treat someone unfairly because they have or have had a disability. A person has a disability if they have or have had a physical or mental impairment which has had a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Gender reassignment

Can be described as the process of transitioning from one gender to another. The Act makes it against the law to treat someone unfairly because they are considering transitioning, in the process of transitioning or have transitioned.

We use the term transgender as an umbrella term to describe people whose gender identity is different than the gender assigned to them at birth.

You don’t need to have had any specific treatment or surgery to be considered transgender or to be protected by the act. Changing your physiological or other gender attributes is a personal process rather than a medical one

Marriage and civil partnership

People who are married or in civil partnerships are protected by the Act. People living together, single people, people who are engaged or intend to marry are not protected.

Pregnancy and Maternity

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate, or treat employees unfavourably because they are pregnant, have given birth recently, are breastfeeding or on maternity leave.


Protects groups of people defined by their colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.

Religion and belief

Protects people against discrimination because of their religious or philosophical beliefs. This also includes lack of belief. A belief needs to affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition.


Protects men and women against discrimination. Inter-sex people are not explicitly protected from discrimination, but you cannot be discriminated against because of your gender or perceived gender.

Sexual orientation

Protects people of all sexual orientations (gay, bisexual, lesbian, straight) against discrimination.