Your legal right to equal treatment

The Equality Act (2010)

The Equality Act 2010 enshrines your right to equal treatment and freedom from discrimination and harassment.

These rights can differ if you are contracted to work as someone who is self-employed, a worker or an employee. So, while you can be protected from discrimination regardless of your status, you must always seek advice from Equity around any concern you have.

We can best protect you from discrimination when you contact us as soon as you have a concern. Any delay can reduce the options we have to resolve the poor treatment you‘ve experienced. 

The Equality Act (2010) seeks to protect workers (and people in society generally) from discrimination based on their protected characteristics. In broad terms, it is unlawful to discriminate against or harass a worker because they have one or more of the following protected characteristics:

How does the Equality Act work (and what are its strengths and weaknesses?)

To discriminate means to treat someone who has one or more protected characteristics less favourably than someone without those protected characteristics. This might mean, for example, not offering someone with a disability the chance to work, or not providing a safe place of work to all equally.

The Equality Act outlines the four main types of discrimination around which a worker can argue they have experienced poor treatment. These are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

A key strength of the Act for trade unions is that is provides minimum rights for all workers. This means trade unions can demand freedom from discrimination for its members. We build on these minimums in the contracts that Equity members work under.

The Equality Act is not straightforward. It can be lawful for an employer to discriminate when treating workers differently, for example on the basis of age, where this can be objectively justified. Similarly, an employer can use positive action measures to encourage applicants from a specific group of people. For example, those who have historically faced discriminatory barriers to gaining work. Additionally, employers can argue that a specific occupational requirement allows them to restrict applicants for a job, for example on the basis of mobility.

Contact us with any concern you have around discriminatory treatment. We can investigate what has happened and the options available to resolve the issue.

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Next Age

Further advice

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Advice if you are being bullied, harassed or treated unfairly at work – and if you’re experiencing abuse at home.