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The Equality Act 2010 protects everyone in Britain from discrimination, harassment, victimisation or any other type of unfavourable treatment in the workplace. This means the employer or recruiter has a legal obligation to make sure you are treated fairly during the recruitment process and your employment.

The Act is made up of nine protected characteristics which are described below, along with links to further information: 


It is unlawful for your age to be the cause of less favourable treatment in your workplace or in vocational training. Find out more about age discrimination and how and where it may affect you:

  • Equality Human Rights - The information in this section will guide you through the rights that you have to equality and what to do when you experience discrimination.
  • Age Positive - Now archived, this site holds resources around age and employment.

Sex (Gender)

Unlawful sex discrimination happens when someone is treated unfairly because of their gender. 

You may be discriminated against because you are, or are not, a particular sex, someone mistakes your gender, or you are connected to someone of a particular sex.

Marriage and transgender are also related protected characteristics, see below.


It is unlawful for a person to discriminate on racial grounds against another person. The law defines racial grounds as including race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.

On the Equality Human Rights website find out more about race discrimination, your legal rights and what to do if you are being discriminated against.

Religion and Belief

Under the Equality Act 2010, you have the right to hold your own religious beliefs or other philosophical beliefs similar to a religion. You also have the right to have no religion or belief. It is unlawful for an employer to treat you unfairly on any of these grounds.


The Equality Act 2010 says a disabled person is someone with a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Examples include cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart conditions; hearing or sight impairments, or a significant mobility difficulty; and mental health conditions or learning difficulties. People in these circumstances and some others (such as people with a facial disfigurement) are likely to have rights under the Equality Act 2010 to protect them from discrimination. However, only the courts can say if a particular individual is defined as disabled under the legislation.

Sexual Orientation

Unlawful sexual orientation discrimination happens when someone is treated less favourably due to their sexual orientation, their perceived sexual orientation, or the sexual orientation of those they associate with. You are legally protected from this type of discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.

Related article: Should I Be Open About Being LGBT+ When Applying For A Job? from Forbes.

Gender reassignment

Trans people often experience discrimination - some of this discrimination is unlawful and covered by equality legislation.

Trans (or Transgender) is an umbrella term used by people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from their birth sex. The term includes, but is not limited to, transsexual people and others who define as gender-variant. 

Trans people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.  Known as gender reassignment or transition this is usually a complex process that takes place over a long period of time. 

The Equality Act 2010 contains protections for people who plan to undergo, are undergoing, or have undergone gender reassignment. Some transgender people are not covered by the gender reassignment provisions in the SDA but are still protected from discrimination on the basis of their birth sex by the SDA.

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Those who are married or in a civil partnership are also protected against discrimination in employment under the Equality Act 2010.

This includes marriage between a man and woman and same-sex partnerships.

Pregnancy and Maternity

It is unlawful for an employer to treat an employee unfavourably if they are pregnant or have issues related to the pregnancy including illness. See an overview of the details on the Equality and Human Rights website.

Maternity leave is also covered under the Equality Act legislation, as well as any unfair treatment upon returning to work.

More information

  • The University of Bradford equality and diversity policies.
  • There is also an Advice and Guidance page on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
  • Vercida supports companies and job seekers with diversity and equality issues.