The Equality Act 2010 identifies nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. 

Every person has one or more of the protected characteristics, so the act protects everyone against unfair treatment. The protected characteristics are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

The Equality Act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, victimisation and failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person.

The act prohibits unfair treatment in the workplace, when providing goods, facilities and services, when exercising public functions, in the disposal and management of premises, in education and by associations (such as private clubs).

A more in-depth definition of these protective characteristics can be viewed on the Office of Public Sector Information website and on the Home Office website:

Office of Public Sector Information

Home Office: Equalities Act