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Equality Act 2010 - discrimination and your rights

This information applies to England, Wales and Scotland

Who is protected

The Equality Act 2010 makes your rights not to be discriminated against stronger. Discrimination means treating someone worse than other people because of who they are.

The groups of people who have the right not be discriminated against have also been extended. People who belong to these groups have what are called protected characteristics.

It doesn't matter whether any of these characteristics apply to you, or the people in your life. If you are treated worse because someone thinks you belong to a group of people with protected characteristics, this is discrimination.

The Act now also protects you if people in your life, such as family members, friends or co-workers have a protected characteristic and you are treated less favourably because of that. For example, you are discriminated against because your son is gay.

The characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010 are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender identity and gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

If you have one or more of these protected characteristics, it is also now against the law to treat you the same as everyone else if this treatment will put you at a disadvantage.

The Equality Act 2010 covers you at work and when you use services, such as shops, hotels or gyms, hospitals or other free services.

What other rights are covered

The Equality Act makes it clear that a woman can't be treated worse than other people for breast-feeding her baby in public places like cafes, shops and buses. For example, a bus driver couldn't ask a woman to get off the bus just because she's breast-feeding her baby.

It is also against the law to treat carers less favourably, or harass them because the person they are caring for has a protected characteristic.

For example, if an employer is usually open to flexible working from parents, but refuses to agree to requests from parents of disabled children, this is discrimination.

Further help and information

You can find out more about your rights not to be treated worse than other people on our discrimination pages.

Citizens Advice and the Government Equalities Office have produced two new guides to some of the new rights you'll have under the Equality Act.

To download an online copy of the Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know? A summary guide to your rights, click on Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know [Adobe Acrobat Document 210 KB].

To download an online copy of the Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know as a carer? click on Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know as a carer [Adobe Acrobat Document 230 KB].

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