Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic.

What are the protected characteristics?

The Equality Act provides protection against discrimination for 9 protected characteristic groups:


A person belonging to a particular age group (so 38 year olds would be an age group) or an age range (for example 16-24 year olds).

Click here for more information on age and age discrimination.


A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantive and long-term effect on that person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

Click here for more information on disability and disability discrimination.

Gender Reassignment

The process in which a person transitions from one gender to another. This can be in any way they choose and does not need to involve medical intervention as it is a personal process. A reference to a transsexual person is a reference to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

Click here for more information on gender reassignment and gender reassignment discrimination.

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Marriage is a formally recognised union between two people, this can be a man or a woman or a same-sex couple.

Same sex couples can also have their relationship recognised as a civil partnership.

Click here for more information on marriage and civil partnership and marriage and civil partnership discrimination.

Pregnancy and Maternity

Pregnancy is defined as the condition or period of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after birth.

Click here for more information on pregnancy and maternity and pregnancy and maternity discrimination.


Race includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. In relation to the protected characteristic or race, this refers to a person who is of a particular racial group or to persons of the same racial group.

Click here for more information on race and race discrimination.

Religion or belief

Religion refers to any religion or lack of religion. Belief refers to any religious or philosophical belied of lack of belief. In order to constitute a belief it should affect the way that you live your life. The characteristic refers to a person of a particular religion or belief or to persons who are of the same religion or belief.

Click here for more information on religion or belief and discrimination based on religion or belief.


This can refer to either male or female, or groups of men and women.

Click here for more information on sex discrimination.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is a person’s sexual attraction towards their own sex, the opposite sex, or to both sexes.

Click here for more information on sexual orientation and sexual orientation discrimination.

Find out more

What is the Equality Act 2010?
Legislative history of the Equality Act 2010