The Equality Act 2010 and definitions

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act brought together all the previously existing strands of equality and discrimination legislation, with the aim of clarifying existing law and extending it to cover some anomalies in existing discrimination law. See further information and the latest version of the Equality Act.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010)

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a duty on public authorities to consider how their policies and decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. Those subject to the equality duty must, in the exercise of their functions, have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not

These are sometimes referred to as the three aims or arms of the general equality duty. The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:

  • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics
  • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people
  • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

Read further information and the latest version of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Protected characteristics

The Equality Act identifies nine protected characteristics and the Act provides protection from unlawful discrimination in respect of these characteristics.

The characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

What is discrimination?

Coventry City Council recognises that discrimination can take many different forms, all of which are unacceptable.

Direct discrimination

This occurs when someone is treated less favourably than others because of a protected characteristic they possess.

Indirect discrimination

This occurs when a condition, rule or policy that applies to everyone but is particularly disadvantageous to people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified if it can be shown that the requirement is a proportionate means to achieving a legitimate aim.

Associative discrimination

This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with someone who possesses a protected characteristic.

Discrimination by perception

This is direct discrimination against an individual because they are believed to possess a protected characteristic, regardless of whether they actually possess that characteristic or not.


Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.


Victimisation refers to bad treatment directed towards someone who has made or is believed to have made or supported a complaint under the Equality Act. It includes situations where a complaint hasn't yet been made but someone is victimised because it's suspected they might make one.


Bullying can be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. The impact on the individual can be the same as harassment and the words bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably in the workplace.


An environment where a variety of different individuals, groups and/or communities with different social and cultural characteristics exist together


Cultivating an environment where any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued to fully participate


Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement while simultaneously striving to identify and eliminate structural barriers that have previously prevented the full participation of some groups