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Equality Act 2010 - discrimination and your rights

When are you protected from discrimination?

Discrimination means treating you unfairly because of who you are. The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination by:

  • employers
  • businesses and organisations which provide goods or services like banks, shops and utility companies
  • health and care providers like hospitals and care homes
  • someone you rent or buy a property from like housing associations and estate agents
  • schools, colleges and other education providers
  • transport services like buses, trains and taxis
  • public bodies like government departments and local authorities.

There are nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Discrimination which happens because of one or more of these characteristics is unlawful under the Act. We all have some of these characteristics - for example, sex or age - so the Act protects everyone from discrimination.

If you’re treated unfairly because someone thinks you belong to a group of people with protected characteristics, this is also unlawful discrimination.

What are the protected characteristics?

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

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

Discrimination by association

The Act also protects you if people in your life, like family members or friends, have a protected characteristic and you're treated unfairly because of that. This is called discrimination by association. For example, if you're discriminated against because your son is gay.

If you complain about discrimination

The Equality Act protects you if you're treated badly because you've complained about discrimination or stood up for discrimination rights, either for yourself or for someone else.

Further help and information

You can find out more about your rights under the Equality Act on our discrimination pages.

Citizens Advice and the Government Equalities Office have produced two guides to some of your rights 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].

For information about the Equality Act 2010 and your rights in BSL go to Discrimination advice in BSL

Discrimination video

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