About the Act
The Equality Act 2010 came into force from 1st October 2010 and harmonises and replaces previous anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995). For the most part the responsibilities under the Act have stayed the same. However there are some changes that help employers and business that provide goods and services to the public to increase diversity and reduce inequality. These include the introduction of protected characteristics and definitions of new forms of discrimination.
Discrimination and your rights
When are you protected from discrimination?
Discrimination means treating you unfairly because of who you are. The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination by:
- businesses and organisations which provide goods or services like banks, shops and utility companies
- health and care providers like hospitals and care homes
- someone you rent or buy a property from like housing associations and estate agents
- schools, colleges and other education providers
- transport services like buses, trains and taxis
- public bodies like government departments and local authorities.
There are nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Discrimination that takes place because of one or more of these characteristics is unlawful under the Act. We all have some of these characteristics – for example, sex or age – so the Act protects everyone from discrimination.
If you’re treated unfairly because someone thinks you belong to a group of people with protected characteristics, this is also unlawful discrimination.
What are the protected characteristics?
The characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010 are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Discrimination by association
The Act also protects you if people in your life, like family members or friends, have a protected characteristic and you’re treated unfairly as a result. This is called discrimination by association. For example, if you were discriminated against because your daughter were gay this would be unlawful.
If you complain about discrimination
The Equality Act also protects you if you’re treated badly because you’ve complained about discrimination or stood up for discrimination rights, either for yourself or for someone else.
1) Equality and Human Rights Commission. What is the Equality Act? www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/legislation/equality-act-2010/what-equality-act
2) Citizens Advice. Equality Act 2010 – discrimination and your rights. www.citizensadvice.org.uk/discrimination/about-discrimination/equality-act-2010-discrimination-and-your-rights