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Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act became law in October 2010.

The Act replaces 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:

You can read the full text of the Equality Act on the Government's Legislation webpages.

If you'd like to learn more about ED&I legislation and can't find what you need here, contact us and let us know.


Protected Characteristics

The Equality Act covers nine 'protected characteristics', namely (use the links below to find more information on each):

* Since the creation of the Equality Act terminology on ED&I issues has changed and progressed. At Warwick we use the term 'trans', as opposed to 'gender reassignment', when talking about equality issues relating to gender identity (there is more information on the differences between these terms on the Trans and Gender Reassignment webpage). We also use the term 'gender', as opposed to 'sex', when talking about equality issues relating to sex/gender. There is more information on the differences between these terms on the Sex and Gender webpage.


Prohibited Conduct

The Equality Act prohibits

Direct discrimination

This is when someone is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic.

This can include direct discrimination:

  • By association. This is when someone is treated less favourably because of a connection to an individual who has a protected characteristic (for example, a family member, friend, or colleague).
  • By perception. This is when someone is treated less favourably because they are thought to have a protected characteristic, whether or not this perception is correct.

Indirect discrimination

This is when a practice, policy, or rule is applied to everyone but has a worse effect on some.


This is when someone engages in unwanted conduct relevant to a protected characteristic and that conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.


This is when someone is treated less favourably due to an allegation of discrimination which they made, supported, or gave evidence to.


Public Sector Equality Duty

The Equality Act created the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which came into effect in April 2011.

The PSED replaced existing duties (the race, disability, and gender equality duties) which aimed to place a responsibility on organisations to actively promote equality, not simply avoid discrimination. The PSED brings the duties together into one general duty covering all protected characteristics, aiming to bring the consideration of equality into the everyday business of public bodies.

Organisations subject to the PSED, including the University, must have due regard to the need to:

  1. Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation, and any other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act.
  2. Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it. This involves:
    • Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
    • Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
    • Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
  3. Foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it. The involves:
    • Tackling prejudice.
    • Promoting understanding.

The Equality Act explains that complying with the PSED may involve treating some people or groups more favourably than others. For example, the PSED notes that the needs of disabled people may differ from those of non-disabled people, and public bodies are required to provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate those needs. You can find more information about workplace adjustments at Warwick on the My Adjustment Passport webpage.

Specific Duties

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) is supported by the Specific Duties, which came into force in September 2011.

The aim of the Specific Duties is to make public bodies transparent about their decision-making processes and give the public the information they need to hold public bodies to account for their performance on equality.

The Specific Duties require public bodies, including the University, to:

  • Publish information to show their compliance with the Equality Duty, at least annually. This includes:
    • Information relating to employees who share protected characteristics.
    • Information relating to people who are affected by their policies and practices who share protected characteristics (for example, service users).
  • Set and publish one or more equality objectives, at least every four years. These should be specific and measurable objectives which will help them further the three aims of the PSED.

The Specific Duties also require public bodies to ensure that the information and objectives they publish are easily accessible to the public, free of charge. As such, you can find information about our compliance with the Equality Duty on the Data and Reports webpage, and read the University's Equality Objectives here.