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The nine protected characteristics

Under equality and diversity guidelines and legislation there are nine specific areas,these are called protected characteristics.

Definitions of protect characteristics

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This refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 - 30 year olds).  For further information on age please follow the link to the UK Legislation website.


A person has a disability if she/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. 

For further information on please see disability on the UK Legislation website.

Gender reassignment

The process of transitioning from one gender to another.  For further information please see gender reassignment on the UK Legislation website.

Marriage and civil partnership

A person is legally married if the union is recognised as a marriage under UK law.  Same-sex couples can also have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'.  Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters.  For further information please see marriage and civil on the UK Legislation website.

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 a non-employment context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.  For further information please see pregnancy and maternity on the UK Legislation website.


Refers to a group of people defined by their:

  • race
  • colour
  • nationality (including citizenship)
  • ethnic or national origins

For further information please see race on  the UK Legislation website.

Religion and belief

Religion and 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.  For further information please see religion and belief on the UK Legislation website.


A man or a woman.  For further information please see sex on the UK Legislation website.

Sexual orientation

Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.  For further information please see sexual orientation on the UK Legislation website.

You are also protected if you are discriminated against because you are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic, For example protecting carers from discrimination. The Equality Act will protect people who are, for example, caring for a disabled child or relative. They will be protected by their association to that person.