Protected Characteristics


As a public sector organisation, the Trust has a legal duty to ensure that equality, diversity and human rights are embedded in all its functions and activities, as required by the Equality Act 2010, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the NHS Constitution.

The Equality Act 2010 replaces all previous equality laws, such as the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Religious and Belief Regulations and the Sexual Orientation Regulation. The Equality Act places a public sector equality obligation on public sector organisations to “respect” personal, protected characteristics in their decision-making process when developing or reviewing policies, redesigning or restructuring services and developing strategies.

The Equality Act is a key part of the legal framework, underpinned by the way the NHS provides its services and supports its employees. The duty also requires the Trust to collect, analyse and publish its workforce data, and to provide access to user data on equality in an accessible format. The Trust is also obliged to publish its equality objectives and an annual progress report on these objectives.

The NHS Constitution also underpins the Equality Act and Human Rights Act.

The Equality Act outlaws discrimination against the following protected characteristics:

Age Discrimination

What is age discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently because of your age in one of the situations that are covered by the Equality Act. 

The Equality Act has some exceptions. For example, students are not protected from age discrimination at school. 

The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy based on age. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

What the Equality Act says about age discrimination 

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because: 

  • you are (or are not) a certain age or in a certain age group 
  • someone thinks you are (or are not) a specific age or age group, this is known as discrimination by perception 
  • you are connected to someone of a specific age or age group, this is known as discrimination by association 

Age groups can be quite wide (for example, ‘people under 50’ or ‘under 18s’). They can also be quite specific (for example, ‘people in their mid-40s’). Terms such as ‘young person’ and ‘youthful’ or ‘elderly’ and ‘pensioner’ can also indicate an age group.  

Disability

What is disability discrimination? 

Disability discrimination is when you are treated less well or put at a disadvantage for a reason that relates to your disability in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act. 

The treatment could be a one-off action, the application of a rule or policy or the existence of physical or communication barriers which make accessing something difficult or impossible. 

The discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

What the equality act says about disabilities discrimination: 

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because: 

  • you have a disability 
  • someone thinks you have a disability (this is known as discrimination by perception) 
  • you are connected to someone with a disability (this is known as discrimination by association) 

It is not unlawful discrimination to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person 

Gender Reassignment

What is gender reassignment discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently because you are transsexual, in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act. 

The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

There are some circumstances when being treated differently due to gender reassignment is lawful, explained below. 

What the Equality Act says about gender reassignment discrimination 

The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because you are transsexual, when your gender identity is different from the sex assigned to you when you were born (for example, a person who was born female decides to spend the rest of his life as a man).

In the Equality Act it is known as gender reassignment. All transsexual people share the common characteristic of gender reassignment. 

To be protected from gender reassignment discrimination, you do not need to have undergone any specific treatment or surgery to change from your birth sex to your preferred gender. This is because changing your physiological or other gender attributes is a personal process rather than a medical one. 

You can be at any stage in the transition process – from proposing to reassign your gender, to undergoing a process to reassign your gender, or having completed it.  

Civil Partnership

What is marriage and civil partnership discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently at work because you are married or in a civil partnership. 

What the Equality Act says about marriage and civil partnership discrimination 

The Equality Act says you must not be discriminated against in employment because you are married or in a civil partnership. 

In the Equality Act marriage and civil partnership means someone who is legally married or in a civil partnership. Marriage and civil partnership can either be between a man and a woman, or between partners of the same sex. 

People do not have this characteristic if they are: 

  • single 
  • living with someone as a couple neither married nor civil partners 
  • engaged to be married but not married 
  • divorced or a person whose civil partnership has been dissolved 

Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination

What is meant by pregnancy and maternity discrimination? 

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts. 

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or because you’ve recently given birth. You must suffer a disadvantage as a result of the unfair treatment. The law says you’ve been treated unfavourably. 

What is meant by unfavourable treatment? 

Unfavourable treatment means that you’re worse off because of the discrimination – for example, by not getting a promotion at work. Unlike direct discrimination, there’s no need to compare your situation to someone else’s. All you need to show is that you were treated unfavourably because of pregnancy and maternity. 

Race Discrimination 

What is race discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently because of your race in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act. 

The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy based on race. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

There are some circumstances when being treated differently due to race is lawful, explained below. 

What the Equality Act says about race discrimination 

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because of your race.  

In the Equality Act, race can mean your colour, or your nationality (including your citizenship). It can also mean your ethnic or national origins, which may not be the same as your current nationality. For example, you may have Chinese national origins and be living in Britain with a British passport. 

Race also covers ethnic and racial groups. This means a group of people who all share the same protected characteristic of ethnicity or race.  

A racial group can be made up of two or more distinct racial groups, for example black Britons, British Asians, British Sikhs, British Jews, Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers. 

You may be discriminated against because of one or more aspects of your race, for example people born in Britain to Jamaican parents could be discriminated against because they are British citizens, or because of their Jamaican national origins. 

Religion and Belief  

Religion or belief is one of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. People have legal protection from being discriminated against because of religion or belief, or lack of religion or belief, under the Act. They also have an absolute right to hold (with a qualified right to manifest) a religion or belief under Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998. 

Employers are not expected to be experts on religion or belief. In most cases, taking a common sense approach will help you to resolve issues that might arise and avoid acting unlawfully. 

Sex Discrimination  

What is sex discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently because of your sex, in certain situations covered by the Equality Act 2010. 

The treatment could be a one-off action or could be caused by a rule or policy. 

It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

There are some circumstances when being treated differently due to sex is lawful.  

What the Equality Act says about sex discrimination 

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because: 

  • you are (or are not) a particular sex 
  • someone thinks you are the opposite sex (this is known as discrimination by perception) 
  • you are connected to someone of a particular sex (this is known as discrimination by association) 

In the Equality Act, sex can mean either male or female, or a group of people like men or boys, or women or girls.

Sexual Orientation  

What is sexual orientation discrimination? 

This is when you are treated differently because of your sexual orientation in one of the situations that are covered by the Equality Act. 

The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. 

There are some circumstances when being treated differently due to sexual orientation is lawful, explained below. 

What the Equality Act says about sexual orientation discrimination 

The Equality Act 2010 says you must not be discriminated against because: 

  • you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual 
  • someone thinks you have a particular sexual orientation (this is known as discrimination by perception) 
  • you are connected to someone who has a particular sexual orientation (this is known as discrimination by association) 

In the Equality Act, sexual orientation includes how you choose to express your sexual orientation, such as through your appearance or the places you visit. 


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