Protected Characteristics: definitions

    Throughout the guidance you will see reference to 'protected characteristics' - characteristics protected by equality legislation. This page gives you more information on each of the nine protected characteristics.

    Where this is referred to, it refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 - 30 year olds).

    A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

    Gender reassignment
    The process of transitioning from one gender to another.

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

    Pregnancy and maternity
    Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.

    Refers to the protected characteristic of Race. It refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.

    Religion and belief
    Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live  for it to be included in the definition.

    A man or a woman.

    Sexual orientation
    Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes

    Extracted from Equality & Human Rights Commission website.
    You can see a more in-depth definition of these protective chartacteristics on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

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