The Equality Act 2010

Protected Characteristics & Types of Discrimination

the equality act 2010

The Equality Act is a new piece of legislation which brings together and replaces the following legislation as of October 1, 2010:

  • The Equal Pay Act 1970
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • The Race Relations Act 1976
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

Protected Characteristics

The Act defines 9 Protected Characteristics:

Protected Characteristics


Where this is referred to, it refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year old) or range of ages (e.g. 18 – 30 year old).



A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.


Gender Reassignment

The process of transitioning from one gender to another.


Marriage and Civil Partnership

Marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognized as civil partnerships.  Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters.


Pregnancy and Maternity

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavorably because she is breastfeeding.



Refers to the protected characteristic of Race. It refers to a group of people defined by their race, color and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.


Religion and Belief

Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live  for it to be included in the definition.



A man or a woman.


Sexual Orientation

Whether a person’s sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.


Although many of the definitions of these groups (characteristics) have carried over from previous laws, some changes have occurred in the following areas:



The Act is designed to make it easier for a person to show that they are disabled and protected from disability discrimination. A new definition of disability has been introduced, which means a person is disabled if they have “a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”


Gender Reassignment

The Act will provide protection for transsexual people, someone who is “proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex”. The Act no longer requires a person to be under medical supervision to be protected.


You can also alternatively watch these short video about the Equality Act 2010 topic that is mentioned above.

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