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UK: Equal opportunities

Updating author: Jo Broadbent, Hogan Lovells International LLP

Original author: Darren Newman

See the legal services provided by the updating author of XpertHR International > United Kingdom, including any discounts/offers for subscribers.


  • Discrimination in employment is prohibited on the grounds of the "protected characteristics" of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. (See General)
  • As well as a general prohibition of discrimination on the above grounds, there are additional sets of rules governing discrimination because of disability and pregnancy/maternity. (See Specific provisions)
  • The most important exception to the prohibition of direct discrimination in employment is where having a particular protected characteristic is an occupational requirement for the role, while various other limited exceptions apply to specific protected characteristics. (See Exceptions)
  • Harassment constitutes unlawful discrimination. It is generally defined as unwanted conduct relating to a protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating the employee's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. (See Harassment and sexual harassment)
  • Legislation prohibits victimisation, defined as occurring when an employer subjects an employee to a detriment because the employee has done a "protected act", such as bringing a claim under discrimination law, or the employer believes that the employee is going to do a protected act. (See Victimisation)
  • The statutory provisions allowing positive action by employers are limited, except in the case of positive action in favour of people with disabilities. (See Positive action)
  • Workers, employees and job applicants who believe that they have suffered unlawful discrimination in employment may bring an employment tribunal claim and, if the tribunal finds the complaint to be well founded, it can award compensation to the claimant, make a declaration as to the rights of the parties involved and/or make a recommendation that the employer should take certain action. (See Remedies and penalties)