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Legal Framework

An overview of the legislation that frames the University's work on equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Equality Act frames the University's work on Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. The Act became law in October 2010 and replaced previous equality legislation (such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995), bringing together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one Act to ensure consistency and a single framework for tackling disadvantage and discrimination.

Below you can find information about three key elements of the Equality Act:

  • Protected Characteristics
  • Prohibited Conduct
  • The Public Sector Equality Duty

Access the full text of the Equality Act.

Protected Characteristics                                                                                                                              

There are nine protected characteristics covered by The Equality Act:

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

Prohibited Conduct                                                                                                                                         

The Equality Act prohibits:

  • Direct Discrimination: Occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have or are thought to have or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.
  • Discrimination based on association: This is direct discrimination against an individual because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.
  • Discrimination based on perception: This is direct discrimination against an individual because others think they possess a particular characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination: This can occur when there is a condition or rule, policy or practice that applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic.
  • Harassment: 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. Individuals are also protected from harassment because of association and perception.
  • Third party harassment: Liability may exist for harassment of staff and students by third parties.
  • Victimisation: Occurs when an employee is treated badly because they have made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act or because they are suspected of doing so.

Public Sector Equality Duty                                                                                                                                     

The Equality Act 2010 requires all public bodies to meet the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), known also as the ‘General Duty’. The Duty covers all protected groups (except Marriage and Civil Partnership) and requires public bodies 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.

The PSED is supported by the Specific Duties. These are:

  • Publication of information: Higher Education Institutions must publish annually, no later than 31 January, information to demonstrate compliance with the equality duty.
  • Equality objectives: Higher Education Institutions must prepare and publish measurable objective(s) in a manner that is accessible to the public.

More about the PSED.


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