Discrimination on the grounds of marriage and civil partnership under the Equality Act 2010

What does the Act prohibit?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination (whether direct or indirect) and victimisation on the ground that a person is married or in a civil partnership.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs where a person treats another person less favourably than he or she treats or would treat a single person on the ground that they are married or in a civil partnership.

Direct discrimination will occur if, for example, an employer does not promote an employee who has just got married for fear that he or she may be planning to start a family and may need to take time off work.

The Act does not prohibit the harassment of a married person or a civil partner. However, such conduct could amount to discrimination.

However, conduct which would on the face of it amount to direct discrimination is permitted if the conduct amounts to a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice, which is applied or would apply puts persons who are married or in a civil partnership at a disadvantage.

For example, a ban on recruiting people who have children may place a disadvantage on married people.

Conduct which can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim is, however, permitted.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of the fact that he has (or it is believed that he has or may) carried out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;

  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act.

  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

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For more information on:

  • Who does the Act protect?
  • In what circumstances does the Act apply?
  • How is the Act enforced?