The Equality Act 2010 is a piece of legislation put through the United Kingdom Parliament that applies to the United Kingdom (UK). It is designed to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. The legislation covers a variety of discrimination types, who is protected by this law, and what action individuals can take if they have been affected by discrimination.


Before the Equality Act (2010), there were three other acts designed to protect people from discrimination:

  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995

If a person felt they were discriminated against before 2010, they would have to do so under the corresponding act they felt applied to their situation.[1]


Protected characteristics[]

The Equality Act 2010 states that a person cannot be discriminated against based on their protected characteristics, which include:[2]

This is bound in law, meaning if discrimination does occur relating to those areas, that is an offense. With regards to discrimination based on sexual orientation, a person cannot be discriminated against and treated differently based on their sexual orientation.[2]

Discrimination by association[]

Discrimination by association refers to a person being discriminated against based on the protected characteristic of someone they are with or someone they know. For example, if an employer will not offer them a job because their father is gay, that is discrimination by association.[3]

Discrimination by perception[]

Discrimination by perception refers to a person being discriminated against if someone thinks they are of a certain protected characteristic when they are not. For example, a woman who is heterosexual applies for a place in an all-female hall of residence at university; the accommodation officer refuses to offer her a place, thinking she is a lesbian and will make others feel uncomfortable based on that perception.[3]


If a person experienced sexual orientation discrimination on or after October 2010, the Equality Act (2010) applies.[1] There are a few options available:[4]

  • Complain to the person and/or organization directly
  • Go to someone else to help resolve the issue
  • Make a claim in court

For workplace discrimination, guidance recommends initially trying to resolve the situation informally with their employer first, but if unsuccessful, they can contact ACAS, Citizen's Advice, or a trade union representative.[4]