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Protected Characteristics

Northumbria University recognises and values the different strands of diversity and protected characteristics represented throughout the University. 



Legislation protects employees and students from discrimination on the grounds of age. They prohibit direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. As with most other legislation, the law protects everyone equally because of their age.  Age is defined by being of a particular age (for example being 45 years old) or by being within a range of ages (for example being in one's 30's)

Did you know?

A third of young people say that employers are put off by their age.

62% of people interviewing for jobs say that being the 'right age' is important.

38% of employees feel that they have suffered age discrimination at some time while at work.


A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. In ensuring discrimination does not occur the University will make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. It is therefore unlawful to discriminate against disabled people by treating disabled employees or students less favourably for a reason arising from their disability without justification. 

Did you know?

There are over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.

The most commonly-reported impairments are those that affect mobility, lifting or carrying.

The prevalence of disability rises with age. Around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults and 45% of adults over State Pension age.

In 2012, 46.3% of working-age disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people.

Gender Reassignment

A transsexual person is someone who proposes to, starts to or has completed a process to change his or her gender. A transsexual person does not need to be under medical supervision to be protected.

Did you know?

Gender reassignment is a process that takes several years in many cases.

Gender reassignment is growing. From just a handful of operations ten years ago (62 were carried out in England in 1998), it is estimated that the number of individuals requesting gender reassignment is 0.17 per 100,000 in the population.

The Gender Identity Research and Education Society reports that organisations should assume that 1% of their employees and service users may be experiencing some degree of gender varaiance and that at some point 0.2% may undergo transition.

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Legislation protects employees who are married or in a civil partnership. Single people, those who are widowed, cohabiting or divorced are not protected. Students are not protected in education under this characteristic.

Did you know?

The latest ONS statistics reveal that 7,037 civil partnerships were formed in the UK in 2012, an increase of 3.6% since 2011. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 5 December 2005 and enabled same sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. The Government Equalities Office originally estimated that there would be between 11,000 and 22,000 civil partners in Great Britain by 2010, but there were actually over 79,000 people in civil partnerships at the start of 2010.

On census day 27 March 2011, the proportion of the usually resident population in the UK aged 16 and over who were married had decreased from 51 per cent in 2001 to 47 per cent in 2011. The overall number of married people has remained the same at 23.9 million.

Pregnancy and Maternity

Legislation protects women against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity.

Did you know?

Mothers' employment has tripled since 1951 to 2008, and this trend looks set to continue.

Women are having their first child much later: the average age for women giving birth to their first child in England and Wales in 2008 was 29.3 years, compared with 28.3 years in 1997 and 26.6 years in 1971.

Women are likely to have fewer children; the average number of children that each woman will have during her lifetime has dropped from 2.95 in 1964 to 1.95 in 2009. 


Individuals are protected from discrimination on the grounds of race. Race includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins. A racial group can be made up of two or more different racial groups.

Did you know?

According to the 2011 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was as set out in the table below.

Ethnic Group 2011 Population 2011 %
White  55,010,359 87.1
Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller 63,193 0.1
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1,412,958 2.3
Asian or Asian British:Pakistan 1,174,983 1.9
Asian or Asian British:Bangladeshi 451,529 0.7
Asian or Asian British:Chinese 433,150 0.7
Asian or Asian British:Other Asian 861,815 1.4
Asian or Asian British: TOTAL 4,373,339 6.9
Black or Black British 1,904,684 3.0
Mixed Multiple 1,250,229 2.0
Other Ethnic Group 580,374 0.9
Total 63,182,178 100

BME people make up more than 10% of the population, but only 8.5% of the workforce and 6% of management roles.

There are variations in the employment rates for different ethnic minority subgroups. These range from Bangladeshis at 44%, to Indians at 69%. 
In the Civil Service, 3% of Senior Civil servants are from an ethnic minority background.

Religion or Belief

Individuals are protected from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other philosophical belief. This also includes a lack of religion or belief, therefore atheism and humanism are protected beliefs but political beliefs would not be protected.

Did you know?

Numerous surveys indicate that the proportion of individuals who do not hold religious beliefs is steadily increasing.

Religions and beliefs are notoriously difficult to measure, as they are not fixed or innate, and therefore any poll should be primarily treated as an indication of beliefs rather than a concrete measure.

According to the 2011 UK Census, those of no religion are the second largest belief group, about three and a half times as many as all the non-Christian religions put together – at 26.13% of the population. 16,038,229 people said they had ‘no religion’ with a further 4,406,032 (7.18%) not stating a religion. 58.81% described their religion as Christian and 7.88% as some non-Christian religion. This represented a massive change from the 2001 Census, where 15.5% of the population recorded having no religion, and 72% of the population reported being Christian.


It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds that they are female or male.

Did you know?

Women make up 47% of the UK workforce

Eliminating gender discrimination in relation to occupation and pay could increase women’s wages by about 50%

Women’s unemployment is currently at a 24 year high

63.6% of girls achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent, including English and mathematics, GCSEs compared to 54.2% of boys

57% is the proportion of first degree graduates that are women

50% of those on apprenticeships are women. The number of women doing apprenticeships has risen from 138,000 in 2009/10 to 330,000 in 2010/11

1 in 3 female graduates has a degree in health related studies or education, compared with only 1 in 11 male graduates

Only 1 in 5 female graduates has a degree in business and finance, sciences or engineering, despite almost half of graduate degrees being in these subjects

Sexual Orientation

Individuals are protected from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a legislative term in the United Kingdom used to describe the direction of an individuals sexuality. Common terms for describing sexual orientation include bisexual, gay, hetrosexual and lesbian.

Did you know?
In 2010 a representative survey of 238,206 Britons, exclusive to their categories, found 1% identified as gay or lesbian and 0.5% said they were bisexual. A further 0.5% self-identified as "other", and 3% responded as "do not know" or refused to answer. In total this adds up to 5% of people who do not identify as heterosexual.

Nearly half of the UK’s estimated three million homosexuals do not reveal their sexuality to all those they work with.

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