Protected characteristics

Produced by Tolley in association with Emma Bartlett at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

The following Employment Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley in association with Emma Bartlett at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Protected characteristics
  • Age
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Caste
  • Immigration status
  • Sex
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Relationship with other protected characteristics
  • Religion or belief
  • More...

Protected characteristics

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) provides protection against discrimination that relates to certain listed characteristics that people may possess. Some protections relate specifically to only one of those characteristics, while others relate to all of them. These are collectively referred to as 'the protected characteristics'.

Each protected characteristic is listed and, with the exception of pregnancy and maternity, defined in the EqA 2010:

AgeEqA 2010, s 5
DisabilityEqA 2010, s 6
Gender reassignmentEqA 2010, s 7
Marriage and civil partnershipEqA 2010, s 8
Pregnancy and maternityNot explicitly defined, however relevant section is EqA 2010, s 18
RaceEqA 2010, s 9
Religion or beliefEqA 2010, s 10
SexEqA 2010, s 11
Sexual orientationEqA 2010, s 12

The legislative definitions of the characteristics are not always very helpful and each protected characteristic has therefore been summarised below.


This characteristic protects a person or a group of persons who belong to a particular age group against less favourable treatment on that basis. An age group is a group of persons who can be defined by their age. This can be:

  1. a specific age

  2. a range of ages

  3. a wide range of ages (any person over the age of 60)

  4. a narrow range of ages (any person who is 18 or any person born in 1992)

  5. a relative range (younger than our current team or older than our former manager)

  6. based on an assumption about the person's age, whether that assumption is true or false (eg someone who looks under 30)

  7. linked to appearance that is disconnected from actual age (teenage workforce, older workforce, etc)

An 18-year-old (or group of 18-year-olds) would belong to a specific age group, as would a person over the age of 60 (or a group of persons over the age of 60). A person could also belong to a number of age groups, eg younger, under 30, born in 1990, 21 years old.

While the most obvious forms of age discrimination will adversely affect those who are older,

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