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HomeHuman ResourcesManaging PeopleWhat are Protected Characteristics

What are Protected Characteristics

What are Protected Characteristics
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Discrimination in the workplace has become a growing focus in the last decade and it can be important for businesses to remain compliant and treat all employees (and potential new hires) with respect and a fair chance. There are 9 protected characteristics to be aware of to avoid discrimination in the workplace, so let’s take a look at them now.

Protected characteristics explained

UK discriminatory laws are in force to ensure that everyone gets treated with the same level of respect at work and also that the hiring process provides a level playing field when roles are presented to the public. As a result, employers need to minimise the potential risks that can come with unlawful conduct. One of the best things to do is understand what’s known as a ‘protected characteristic’; a feature outlined by law that describes aspects of individuals that may lead them to be treated less favourably by employers, HR representatives (or hiring personnel), or peers.

What are the 9 protected characteristics?

The Equality Act 2010 aims to simplify the rules and regulations, compiling all anti-discrimination legislation under one Act. Businesses are expected to treat all employees the same, despite there:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation

The 9 characteristics also include not discriminating against those who have:

  • Undergone gender reassignment
  • Are married or are you in a civil partnership
  • Are pregnant or on maternity leave

Discrimination can be classed as either direct or indirect and can include verbal abuse, harassment, or even outdated company policies that set certain individuals at a disadvantage for any of the above circumstances.

What happens if businesses are found to be discriminatory

Everybody has the right not to be discriminated against in the workplace – and this extends to potential employees during the hiring process. If an employer (or one of their employees) is found to be discriminating against a person who possesses one or more of the 9 characteristics, there will be legal ramifications such as claims for unlawful discrimination. Employers can be liable for their own discriminatory conduct, but also vicariously liable if employees are acting outside of these laws. If you are unsure of your responsibilities, it may be worthwhile to seek employment law advisory services to ensure compliance.

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