Your rights under the Equality Act 2010

Published: 19 February 2020

Last updated: 19 February 2020

What countries does this apply to?

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales

The Equality Act became law in 2010. It covers everyone in Britain and protects people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. 

The information on these pages is here to help you understand the law and decide if you have been treated unlawfully.

Who the Equality Act protects

The Equality Act protects everyone in Britain against discrimination. This is because of the protected characteristics that we all have.

Under the Equality Act, there are nine protected characteristics:

There are some important differences depending on which protected characteristic you have. 

Situations in which you are protected from discrimination

Under the Equality Act you are protected from discrimination:

  • when you are in the workplace
  • when you use public services like healthcare (for example, visiting your doctor or local hospital) or education (for example, at your school or college)
  • when you use businesses and other organisations that provide services and goods (like shops, restaurants, and cinemas)
  • when you use transport
  • when you join a club or association (for example, your local tennis club)
  • when you have contact with public bodies like your local council or government departments

Types of discrimination

There are four main types of discrimination.

Direct discrimination

This means treating one person worse than another person because of a protected characteristic. For example, a promotion comes up at work. The employer believes that people’s memories get worse as they get older so doesn’t tell one of his older employees about it, because he thinks the employee wouldn’t be able to do the job. 

Indirect discrimination

This can happen when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one. For example a local authority is planning to redevelop some of its housing. It decides to hold consultation events in the evening. Many of the female residents complain that they cannot attend these meetings because of childcare responsibilities. 


This means people cannot treat you in a way that violates your dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. For example a man with Down’s syndrome is visiting a pub with friends. The bar staff make derogatory and offensive comments about him, which upset and offend him. 


This means people cannot treat you unfairly if you are taking action under the Equality Act (like making a complaint of discrimination), or if you are supporting someone else who is doing so. For example, an employee makes a complaint of sexual harassment at work and is dismissed as a consequence.

Other parts of the Equality Act

Public Sector Equality Duty

The Equality Act also requires public bodies (like local councils, hospitals, and publicly-funded service providers) to consider how their decisions and policies affect people with different protected characteristics. The public body also should have evidence to show how it has done this. 

For examplea local authority wants to improve its local bus service. It carries out a survey of people who use public transport and finds that very few women use buses at night because they are worried about sexual harassment. The local authority decides to work with the police and the transport provider, as well as local residents, to find ways to address this problem and make the bus service more inclusive.

Where to go for more information on the Equality Act

You can visit the Citizens Advice website for general information.

If you are concerned about your treatment at work, you can visit ACAS for more information.

If you are in a union, your union representative should also be able to help you with discrimination advice.

Page updates

Related pages on this site

Contact Acas for further information

If you are involved in an employment dispute or are seeking information on employment rights and rules, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas):

Freephone: 0300 123 1100 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday)

Text Relay service: 18001 0300 123 1100.

Visit the Acas website
phone icon

0300 123 1100