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Equality and diversity

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2. The Equality Act

The Equality Act 2010 is the law which bans unfair treatment and helps achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and in wider society.

The Act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, victimisation and failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person. It does not allow unfair treatment in the workplace, when providing goods, facilities and services, when exercising public functions, when getting rid of premises, in education, and by associations (such as private clubs).

Protected characteristics

The Act covers nine protected characteristics, and every person has one or more of the protected characteristics, so the act protects everyone against unfair treatment. The protected characteristics are:


Unlawful age discrimination happens when someone is treated unfavourably, harassed, or victimised because of their age.

We are under a duty to take into consideration the requirements of all of our customers, and ensure that our services are accessible to everyone, regardless of age.


A disability is a long-term life-limiting illness or condition. If you have or have had a disability, it is unlawful for you to be discriminated against in:

  • employment
  • trade organisations and qualifications bodies
  • access to goods, facilities, and services
  • the management, buying, or renting of land or property
  • education

The four types of disability discrimination are:

  • direct discrimination
  • failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • disability-related discrimination
  • victimisation

Gender reassignment 

It is unlawful to discriminate against somebody because of gender reassignment.  

  • gender is a social construct which refers to attributes that society considers appropriate for men and women   
  • gender reassignment is the process of transitioning from one gender to another
  • a person making this change is described in the Equality Act as a 'transsexual' person, often referred to as a 'trans' identity 

Marriage and civil partnership

It is unlawful to discriminate against somebody because they are legally married or in a civil partnership.

  • marriage can be between same and opposite-gender couples, whilst civil partnership is between members of the same gender
  • civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters
  • employers must be aware that any benefits given to married employees must also be offered to civil partners

Pregnancy and maternity

It is unlawful to discriminate against somebody on the basis of pregnancy or maternity. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination are distinct and separate from sex discrimination.

  • pregnancy refers to the condition of being pregnant
  • maternity refers to the period of 26 weeks after the birth, which reflects the period of an ordinary maternity leave entitlement (in the context of employment)


It is unlawful to discriminate against another person on racial grounds; this includes race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origins.

Also included are gypsies and travellers, and overseas migrant workers. To attend the Teignbridge Gypsy and Traveller Forum, please contact

We work in partnership with the police and other organisations to ensure that if you report a racist incident, it will be logged and investigated. This is part of our commitment to tackle unlawful discrimination, and to make local people feel that it is worth reporting hate crime.

If you have been a victim of hate crime due to your race, we would encourage you to report this. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • emergency telephone call – call 999 if the offender is still present or might return, or if you or anyone else is seriously hurt or in danger
  • non-emergency telephone call – call the police switchboard on 101 to report a non-urgent hate crime
  • online – fill in a Devon and Cornwall Police hate crime advice and reporting form, which will be sent to the Hate Crime Prevention Coordinator at Devon County Council. This can be submitted anonymously

Religion and belief

It is unlawful to discriminate against somebody on the basis of their religion or belief, or lack of religion or belief. This includes:

  • any aspect of employment
  • when providing goods, facilities, and services
  • in using or disposing of premises
  • when exercising public functions

Religion is defined as a set of beliefs with a clear structure. Examples include Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, although this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Belief means a philosophical belief that affects your life choices or the way you live (political beliefs do not apply). Humanism, Pacifism, and Atheism are all examples of philosophical beliefs.


It is unlawful to discriminate against somebody because of their sex.

  • sex refers to the biological differences between males and females
  • sex discrimination against men is just as unlawful as sex discrimination against women 

Sexual orientation

It is unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation. This includes:

  • any aspect of employment
  • when providing goods, facilities, and services
  • in using or disposing of premises
  • when exercising public functions

You can report a homophobic incident online using the antisocial behaviour incident report form.

Additional characteristics

While they are not protected under the Equality Act, we monitor rurality and income deprivation, as we recognise that people with these characteristics may be vulnerable or in need of greater assistance when receiving council services.

Rural settlements are defined as areas with a population of 3000 people or fewer. Income deprivation is when a household has a lower than average income.