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What are the 9 Protected Characteristics?

"If people are informed they will do the right thing.

It's when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice."

Charlayne Hunter-Gault


Employee tribunal claims can be costly and detrimental to an organisation's reputation. The maximum award in the financial year 2014/15 was for a sex discrimination case, with £557,039 awarded to the claimant. Cases such as this illustrate not only the personal trauma discrimination causes but also the financial implications which may result. The importance placed on all employees, particularly those with team leader and management responsibilities, having an awareness of equality and diversity matters cannot be stressed highly enough.


Equality and Diversity – What does it mean?

Equality is treating people fairly and providing equal access to jobs, opportunities, benefits and services.


Diversity is about differences and the wide range of differences which exist between us. It's about understanding that each individual is unique and the need to recognise, respect, embrace and value those individual differences.


What considerations are required in the workplace?

In 2010, the Equality Act was introduced, which all employers have to be aware of and comply with. However, managers and employees also need to understand their role in ensuring equality and dignity inside and outside the workplace, as a lesser-known fact is that they can be held personally liable for their discriminatory acts. Their role in ensuring equality and dignity at work is therefore paramount. Training in equality and diversity is necessary to ensure that everyone in the workplace knows that their language and behaviour should be based on dignity and respect for every individual and that they are not demeaning on any grounds, including the nine protected characteristics.


What are the 9 Protected Characteristics?

The nine protected characteristics are defined in the Equality Act 2010, which states that individuals and groups should not be discriminated against based on these characteristics. The Equality Act protects everyone from discrimination, as we all have some of these characteristics.

They are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief (including lack of Belief)
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
It is also possible for cases to arise because of discrimination by association or perception. This means that an individual doesn't have to have a protected characteristic to be protected, but they are treated less favourably because of their close connection or strong association with someone who has a protected characteristic (e.g., a family member) or because someone thinks they have a protected characteristic, but they don't.


How can In Equilibrium help?

In Equilibrium's course "Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Training" is suitable for both managers and employees. It helps to increase understanding, raise awareness and build confidence about diversity issues in the workplace; as two recent participants' comments illustrate:

"It was a very eye-opening course and made me realise how many things go on
that I haven't noticed before."
"Nervousness transformed into confidence"

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