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The Equality Act 2010

Here you can access information and resources about the Equality Act 2010, the public sector equality duty and the nine protected characteristics of the Act, including age, disability, gender re-assignment and race.

What is the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The Equality Act brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. Combined, they make up a new Act that provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.

The Act simplifies, strengthens and harmonises the current legislation to provide Britain with a new discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

The nine main pieces of legislation that have merged are:

  • the Equal Pay Act 1970
  • the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • the Race Relations Act 1976
  • the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • the Equality Act 2006, Part 2
  • the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

Discrimination, Harassment and Victimisation

Discrimination under the Equality Act comes in many different forms. Click on the headings below for definitions and examples

The Council’s Dignity at Work Policy aims to give employees a means of challenging harassment and bullying when experienced in the course of their employment.

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination arises when a person is treated less favourably than others in the same circumstances, because of a protected characteristic. Discrimination in the workplace might take place in respect of recruitment, selection, assessment, training, promotion or the ways in which work is allocated. Discrimination in the delivery of services and public functions might include excluding people from certain activities or refusing them the same service as others without that characteristic.

People in all nine protected groups are protected from direct discrimination.


  • Refusing to employ someone because you think there may be an adverse public response or
  • Asking a disabled person for a bigger deposit when they are booking a holiday Refusing to employ someone because of your own beliefs.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice is applied to every one in the same way but it has the effect of disadvantaging people who share a protected characteristic.

(Note: Pregnancy and maternity are not covered.)


  • Applicants must be over six feet tall;
  • A dress code insists girls and women must wear knee length skirts
  • Academic qualifications must have been gained in the UK

Discrimination Arising from Disability

The Equality Act says that it would be discrimination “to treat a disabled person in a particular way which, because of his or her disability, amounts to treating him or her badly and the treatment cannot be shown to be justified.” As with indirect discrimination, employers can justify the treatment if it can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Similarly an employer can defend a claim on the ground that they did not know, or could not be reasonably expected to know, that the person has a disability.


A disabled workers shift patterns are changed meaning they work fewer but longer days. The disabled worker is exhausted after two long days of working.

This could be discrimination arising out of disability if the employer knew the employee was disabled and there was no justifiable reason for the change in shift pattern.  

Failure to make Reasonable Adjustments

Employers and service providers are required to make reasonable adjustments if any ‘provision, criterion or practice’ or ‘any physical feature of premises’ places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled. Employers have a duty to take reasonable steps in order to prevent the provision, criterion or practice, or feature, having that effect.

Service providers must consider making changes to physical features of their premises so that there are no physical barriers which prevent disabled people from using their services, or make it unreasonably difficult to do so.


A meeting is being held to inform users of a community centre about changes to letting fees. The organisers fail to provide a BSL interpreter for the meeting meaning a user group can not participate.


Harassment because of a protected characteristic occurs when a person engages in unwanted conduct which is related to one or more of the relevant protected characteristics and which has the purpose or the effect of:

  • violating the dignity of another person or
  • creating for that person an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

(Note: People in seven protected groups are protected from harassment. Pregnancy/maternity and marriage/civil partnership are not covered.)

The council’s Dignity at Work policy aims to give employees a means of challenging harassment and bullying when experienced in the course of their employment.


The equality legislation defines as unlawful discrimination any action against a person because they have asserted their rights under the law or supported another person in doing so, e.g. bringing proceedings, giving evidence for another person.


An employee makes a claim of harassment against a manager. The employee is then refused the annual leave they request when other employees doing the same job are not. This, on the face of it could be challenged as victimisation.

Updated on 19th April 2023

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