Equality and diversity (United Kingdom)

Equality and diversity is a term used in the United Kingdom to define and champion equality, diversity and human rights as defining values of society. It promotes equality of opportunity for all, giving every individual the chance to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination.

UK legislation requires public authorities to promote equality in everything that they do, also making sure that other organisations meet their legal duties to promote equality while also doing so themselves.

In the UK under the Equality Act 2010 there are certain legal requirements under existing legislation to promote equality in the areas of nine protected characteristics. These are often collectively referred to as the general duties to promote equality.

As the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain, a Commission of Equality and Human Rights (EHRC) exists that aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people and promote and protect human rights. EHRC has a duty to challenge prejudice and disadvantage and promote the importance of human rights, enforcing equality laws on age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act.

Requirements and duties edit

The requirements to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination and harassment also include discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender reassignment.

It follows that:

Equality and discrimination edit


It is unlawful for age to be the cause of less favourable treatment in a workplace or in vocational training, unless there is an objective justification for doing so. Where this is referred to, it refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 - 30 year olds).


If one has a physical or mental impairment, that person has specific rights that protect them against discrimination. Employers and service providers are obliged to make relevant adjustments. Under certain circumstances this protection also extends to their carers [1][permanent dead link] A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Gender reassignment

The process of transitioning from one gender to another.

Marriage and civil partnership

Marriage is defined as a 'union between a man and a woman'. Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters.

Pregnancy and maternity

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.


Refers to the protected characteristic of Race. It refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins. Wherever one was born, wherever their parents came from, whatever the colour of their skin, they have a right to be treated fairly and be protected against racial discrimination and prejudice.

Religion and belief

Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition. Religion or belief should not interfere with anybody’s right to be treated fairly at work, at school, in shops or while accessing public services such as health care and housing.


Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes. Whether one is straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual should not put them at a disadvantage. The law protects the citizen against discrimination in the workplace, including harassment, on grounds of sexual orientation.

You can see a more in-depth definition of these protected characteristics on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

See also edit

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