The protected characteristics
The protected characteristics

The following Practice Compliance practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The protected characteristics
  • Protected characteristics
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Substantial adverse effect
  • Long-term adverse effect
  • Normal day-to-day activities
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • More...

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) provides protection against discrimination relating to certain listed characteristics, collectively called the protected characteristics. Some protections relate specifically to only one of those characteristics; others relate to all the characteristics.

This Practice Note covers the law that applies on or after 1 October 2010. It is intended to provide high-level information to help you draft your equality and diversity policy. It is not intended as a guide to dealing with equality and diversity claims, which is an employment law matter.

Protected characteristics

The protected characteristics are:

  1. age

  2. disability

  3. gender reassignment

  4. marriage and civil partnership

  5. pregnancy and maternity

  6. race

  7. religion or belief

  8. sex

  9. sexual orientation


The EqA 2010 has very little to say on the subject of defining age. All it tells us is that, in relation to the protected characteristic of age:

  1. any reference in the Act to a person who has a particular protected characteristic means a person of a particular age group

  2. a reference to persons who share a protected characteristic means persons of the same age group

  3. a reference to an age group means a group of persons:

    1. who are all of a particular age

    2. who all fall within a particular range of ages

While the most common forms of age discrimination will adversely affect those who are older, the protection applies

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