The Equality Act 2010 describes nine protected characteristics upon which grounds it is unlawful to discriminate
The Act protects employees of all ages but remains the only protected characteristic that allows employers to justify direct discrimination. In some circumstances, it may be lawful for an employer to treat people differently if there is a “genuine occupational requirement” for a job holder to be of a particular age. The employer can only do this if they can demonstrate that this treatment constitutes a proportionate action to meet a legitimate aim.
The Act continues to allow employers to have a default retirement age of 65, as long as the default retirement age remains.
The Act includes a new protection arising from disability and now states that it is unfair to treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with a disability. An example provided is the tendency to make spelling mistakes arising from dyslexia. Indirect discrimination also covers disabled people, which means that a job applicant could claim that a particular rule or requirement disadvantages people with a disability.
The Act includes a new provision which makes it unlawful, with limited exceptions, for employers to ask about a candidate’s health before offering them work.
It is discriminatory to treat people who propose to start, are undergoing, or have completed a process to change their gender less favourably. For example, because they are absent from work for this reason.
The Act continues to protect employees who are married or in a civil partnership.
However you are not protected by the legislation against discrimination if you’re single, engaged to be married, divorced or your civil partnership has been dissolved, living with someone as a couple, widowed, or someone thinks you’re married or in a civil partnership even though you’re not.
The Act continues to protect women against discrimination because they are pregnant or have given birth.
The Act continues to protect people against discrimination on the grounds of their race, which includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.
The Act continues to protect people against discrimination on the grounds of their religion or their belief, including a lack of belief.
The Act continues to protect both men and women against discrimination on the grounds of their sex.
The Act continues to protect bisexual, gay, heterosexual and lesbian people from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation.