Friday, 19 October 2018 12:28

Protected Characteristics

We think it’s a good idea to remain mindful of the “Protected Characteristics”; the grounds for discrimination claims which were originally set out in the Equalities Act 2010. Since the implementation of the act there have been a few updates and changes and additions to the definitions. All employers should be aware of what the protected characteristics are as they will always be considered by a Tribunal in cases of dismissal.

Awards against claims for discrimination are unlimited with the highest UK award standing at a staggering £4.5 million. It’s understandable then that when we are discussing an employee dismissal with a client, we invariably ask if there are discriminatory factors or protected characteristics to consider.

Remember that discrimination can occur during the recruitment process too so an individual doesn’t even have to be an employee to make a discrimination claim. This is why it is vital to have a fair and transparent recruitment process.

Here’s a brief overview of each of the Protected Characteristics though please call us if you are ever in doubt or if you suspect an issue:

  • Age – You can’t make decisions about employees that is influenced by their age, whether they are young or old. Asking someone to retire for example is a big fat no.
  • Disability – Employers must make reasonable adjustments to the workplace in order to accommodate employees with a disability. There may be limits to what you can do of course but you must be able to prove that you have gone to reasonable lengths. Remember that disability covers mental health too.
  • Gender reassignment – Staff who propose to, have started or have completed a process to change their gender must have equal treatment and facilities. This may for example, include installing a female toilet in a previously all-male environment or changing toilets to unisex.
  • Marital Status – Whether a person is married, single or divorced should not influence any decisions made about their employment status or terms. This includes Civil Partnerships.
  • Race – This includes race defined by colour, nationality or ethnicity. Current thinking on this suggests omitting job applicants’ names from application forms so that race or nationality cannot be guessed and to stop employers making subliminal judgements.
  • Religion or belief – Similar to race; a person’s religion or belief should have no bearing on how they are treated or decisions made about them. Having no religion, ie Atheism, counts too.
  • Pregnancy & Maternity – Treating someone differently because they are pregnant or on maternity leave is another big no.
  • Sex – Whether an employee is male or female should make no difference. Sex discrimination is often cited in equal pay cases
  • Sexual orientation – Relates to whether a person’s sexual attraction is to the same sex, the opposite sex or both sexes. 

To avoid discrimination cases, always make sure that you follow a clear and consistent process that is equal across the entire workforce, particularly where dismissal is concerned. However even those who resign voluntarily may still come back with a constructive dismissal claim if they feel they have been discriminated against.

Remember, if there is an inkling that a case could give rise to a discrimination claim, call us first for some advice. Better safe than sorry. Call us on 01452 331331 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Read 2426 times Last modified on Friday, 19 October 2018 12:32


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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