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The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act became law on 1st October 2010. It replaces previous equality legislation and is intended to strengthen equality law and to make it more transparent and easier to understand.  The Act strengthens and extends protection to cover nine protected characteristics and is relevant to the University both as an employer and as an education and service provider. The Act has also extended the definitions of discrimination.

 Protected Characteristics

Protected characteristics are the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful. The protected characteristics defined under the Act are:


Public Sector Equality Duty

The University is committed to implementing the requirements set out in the Equality Duty, which is supported by the Specific Duties for Scotland. The Equality Duty requires the University to have ‘due regard’ to the need to:

The Equality Act 2010 requires the University to have ‘due regard’ to these obligations throughout all its activities and functions and across all protected characteristics.


Forms of Discrimination (Equality Act 2010)

i. Direct Discrimination

Occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic they have or are thought to have or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.

The new definition of direct discrimination extends protection based on association and perception, already applicable to race, sexual orientation and religion or belief, to include age, disability, gender reassignment, and sex.


a.     Discrimination Based on Association

This refers to discrimination based on an individual’s association with another person belonging to a relevant protected characteristic.


b.      Discrimination Based on Perception

This is direct discrimination against a person because of a belief that he or she possesses a particular protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.


ii. Indirect Discrimination

This occurs when a provision, criterion or practice is neutral on the face of it, but its impact particularly disadvantages people with a protected characteristic, unless the person applying the provision can justify it as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.


iii. Discrimination Arising from a Disability

This occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability and the treatment cannot be justified. Such discrimination can only occur if it is known that a person has a disability or it can reasonably be expected that a person is disabled.

Under the Equality Act, disability is defined as:

“A person has a disability for the purposes of the Act if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” (Equality Act, 2010, S6(1)).”

This definition covers a wide range of physical, mental and sensory impairments, including specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, mental health difficulties such as depression, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy. The definition also includes people with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis from the point of diagnosis.

Further information is available from:

Discrimination arising from a disability may be avoided by the provision of reasonable adjustments.


iv. Duty to Make Reasonable Adjustments

The Equality Act consolidates and extends previous duties upon employers and providers of education, goods and services to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.  The duty is three fold:

In addition, where requirements relate to the provision of information, reasonable adjustments include ensuring that the information is available in an accessible format.


What is a reasonable adjustment?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) ‘Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education’ and ‘Employment Statutory Code of Practice’ state that the following are some of the factors which might be taken into account in determining what is a reasonable adjustment:

Further information on the duty to make reasonable adjustments is available from:

(Extract from the University Equality & Diversity Policy September 2013)