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Employment law guide

Equality and discrimination

It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone at work because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or membership (or non-membership) of a trade union.

The Equality Act 2010 came into force on October 1st 2010 and replaces numerous pieces of separate legislation, which had been previously introduced piecemeal over several decades to cover different forms of workplace discrimination, with one unified legal framework.

The Equality Act has replaced the old separate approaches to race, sex and age discrimination with the much simpler concept of people having “protected characteristics” and of there being “prohibited conduct” by employers.

The protected characteristics are:

Prohibited conduct is:

Although the law generally assigns the same protection to each of the protected characteristics, there are certain exceptions that can apply in different areas of employment.

Someone who believes they are the victim of discrimination at work can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal and could be awarded compensation for any damage or loss suffered including injury to feelings.