Renfrewshire Council

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 brings together a number of existing laws into one place so that it is easier to use. It sets out the personal characteristics that are protected by the law and the behaviour that is unlawful. Simplifying legislation and harmonising protection for all of the characteristics covered will help Britain become a fairer society, improve public services, and help business perform well.

A copy of the Equality Act 2010 with explanatory notes can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Who is protected by the Act?
Everyone in Britain is protected by the Act. The 'protected characteristics' under the Act are (in alphabetical order):


  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

What behaviour is unlawful?
Under the Act people are not allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person because they have any of the protected characteristics. There is also protection against discrimination where someone is perceived to have one of the protected characteristics or where they are associated with someone who has a protected characteristic.

Discrimination means treating one person worse than another because of a protected characteristic (known as direct discrimination); or putting in place a rule or policy or way of doing things that has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, when this cannot be objectively justified (known as indirect discrimination).

Harassment includes unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect or violating someone's dignity or which creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone with a protected characteristic.

Victimisation is treating someone unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act or supporting somebody who is doing so.

Who has a responsibility under the Act?

  • Government departments
  • Service providers
  • Employers
  • Education providers (schools, colleges and universities)
  • Providers of public functions
  • Associations and membership bodies
  • Transport providers

What's the Equality and Human Rights Commission's role in making sure people understand the new law and uphold it?
As well as explaining the law, the Commission can enforce it. The remit given by the government is to protect, enforce and promote equality.

As well as providing advice to individuals and organisations, as a regulator the Commission have powers to enforce the law. These powers include helping individual people with their legal cases; and taking legal action against organisations that appear to have broken the law.