In Equilibrium Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Appendix
This appendix contains information about the protected characteristics as well as an overview of bullying, harassment and victimisation.
9 Characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because they have a protected characteristic, because they are associated with someone with a protected characteristic*, or because they are perceived* to have a protected characteristic.
*Excepting marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity where discrimination can only be against the person to whom protected characteristic applies
The protected characteristic of age relates to chronological age.
Under the Equality Act, a disability is defined as, 'any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities'.
The definition is very broad and includes neuro-divergence, mental health ( including fluctuating conditions), asthma etc. It is the definition itself which should be considered and applied to an individual's circumstances.
For this definition, 'long term' generally means a year or more, or a regularly recurring condition, where the recurrences continue beyond a year. The term 'day-to-day activities' has been held to be things such as running for a bus, opening doors and doing the everyday things that most people take for granted. However, things such as the ability to concentrate or focus for a reasonable period of time and also to carry out activities related to the workplace are now considered.
There are conditions which are defined as a 'disability' from the point of diagnosis; these include cancer, HIV and Aids and multiple sclerosis.
Conditions such as alcoholism, drug and substance addiction and obesity are not classed as disabilities. However, some of the resulting medical conditions that arise from these, diabetes or liver disease, may in themselves be a disability.
Under the Equality Act, employers and education providers should support staff and learners to mitigate barriers which might arise in relation to work and or learning because of a disability. These are 'reasonable adjustments' and can be adjustments to work and study terms and conditions or by the provision of specialist equipment.
Gender reassignment is when someone decides to live in the gender they identify as rather than the gender they were assigned at birth.
To re-assign gender, a person will decide that they wish to live their life in the gender that they self-identify as. There is no legal requirement for surgical or medical interventions.
The use of the correct pronoun to describe someone is important. Persistent use of the wrong pronoun is a form of harassment.
The Equality Act uses the term gender reassignment, but an increasingly common term which is used is 'Trans'.
Marriage and civil partnership
The element of the legislation is about the rights afforded by marriage or civil partnership and, in this respect, is generally held to be rights for people within a formal legal partnership, whether same-sex or opposite sex. This includes same-sex marriage. It does not offer protection for those who cohabit but do not have that legal recognition of their relationship.
Pregnancy and maternity
This provides protection for pregnant women from direct and indirect discrimination and also for anyone caring for a newborn or very young child. The legislation protects someone from exercising their rights to maternity leave as well as the rights to apply for appointment, promotion and access to development opportunities whilst pregnant.
This protected group covers discrimination because of ethnicity, nationality, national identity, skin colour and caste. Ethnicity is determined by a long and shared history, often religion and language. Certain religious groups, such as Jews and Sikhs, are protected by race because of their long shared single history and culture, which in itself determines their ethnicity.
In the UK, Gypsy Travellers (not New Age Travellers) are a minority ethnic group because of that long and shared history. Skin colour difference is not necessary for a racist incident to have occurred; you may have an incident between two people or groups because of their national identity or nationality; for example, national political conflicts may result in conflict or tensions between individuals within a work area or community.
In the UK, our social history has played a significant part in how minority ethnic groups are viewed, particularly those of a different skin colour. In addition the ever-changing political climate plays a part in creating either an inclusive or divisive culture for those of a different ethnicity, nationality or skin colour.
Religion or belief ( including lack of belief)
This characteristic covers all the recognised faith groups; it also covers philosophical beliefs where these are cogent and worthy of respect (for example, vegetarianism, veganism, environmentalism) and also covers those who do not follow any religion or belief system.
Practical considerations include: avoiding setting meetings and events on particular faith days as this can result in individuals being excluded. Dietary requirements are also important in relation to some faith groups and those who opt to follow specific diets for philosophical reasons.
People who hold a faith have the right to have that faith respected; it does not extend to the right to proselytise, nor can one person's belief be used to restrict the rights of others – for example, expectations about other people's behaviour, clothing choice etc.
This is the protection of men and women.
Sexual harassment falls under this protected characteristic and is 'any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex'. There are two distinct elements to this. The first is 'conduct of a sexual nature'. This is the conduct that can be described as having a sexual motive or perceived as having a sexual motive. Comments about sexual behaviour, unwanted touching that can appear minor in nature to extreme behaviours that amount to sexual assault or rape could all be categorised as 'conduct of a sexual nature'.
However, the other distinct element of 'conduct based on sex' is also a form of sexual harassment. It is about the abuse of power in a way that demeans the value of one sex or another in the day-to-day environment. Demeaning comments about women or about men that are intended to 'put them in their place' fall into this. Although that behaviour may be targeted at an individual, it need not be. In those circumstances, the behaviour creates a culture that permits it to be acceptable and creates the power balance in terms of who is valued and who is not.
Sexual orientation protects all people from discrimination because of sexual orientation.
Examples of discrimination related to sexual orientation are the use of homophobic language, refusal to provide a service to a same-sex couple, and verbal or physical abuse directed at someone who is known to be or perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Harassment is a form of discrimination and is defined as unwanted behaviour based on someone's protected characteristic, sexual harassment, or treating someone less favourably because they reject or submit to sexual harassment. Unwanted behaviour can include behaviour which intends to or which violates someone's dignity by creating a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Abuse of power often identified as intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour by one or more people. It may involve words, physical action or behaviour which undermines an individual.
Treating someone less favourably because of a 'protected act' (or because you believe that a person has done or is going to undertake a protected act).
A 'protected act' is:
Making a claim or complaint of discrimination (under the Equality Act).
Helping someone else to make a claim by giving evidence or information.
Making an allegation that you or someone else has breached the Equality Act.
Doing anything else in connection with the Act
Equality Act 2010
Detailed information about the legislation can be found here
Equality Act 2010 | Equality and Human Rights Commission (equalityhumanrights.com)
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