What are Protected Characteristics?

What are Protected Characteristics

Protected Characteristics, as defined by The Equality Act, which came into force on 1 October 2010, are essential for safeguarding employees from discrimination. Having these in place ensures fair treatment across all aspects of HR, including recruiting, promotions and workplace contact.

As described on the ACAS website, whether intended or not, discrimination could look like:

  • Excluding someone from opportunities at work or provided with benefits
  • Making it more difficult for someone to do their job
  • Causing someone emotional distress or financial loss.

So, what are the Protected Characteristics?


Applicants, employees, contractors and former employees of all ages are protected from discrimination, ensuring workplace decisions are based on experience and skills required, rather than age.


Those with with a physical or mental disability are safeguarded. It is also important that employers make reasonable adjustments, where possible, to accommodate those with disabilities, ensuring equal access to employment opportunities.

Gender Reassignment

This ensures that transgender employees are treated with the same respect and equality. It protects those who are undergoing, have undergone or plan to undergo gender reassignment.

Marriage and Civil Partnership

Providing equal rights regardless of marital status to ensure that those who are married or in a civil partnership cannot be discriminated against.

Pregnancy and Maternity

Ensuring those with children, those who are pregnant or are breastfeeding are protected. These employees should not be treated unfairly due to their pregnancy or family status.


This characteristic aims to eliminate racial discrimination and promote diversity within the workplace.


Staff should never be treated unfairly due to their religious beliefs. Employers must respect and accommodate religious practices and beliefs, where possible.


Promoting gender equality across all employment, and ensuring that nobody is discriminated against due to their sex.

Sexual Orientation 

Individuals are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

By understanding and respecting these characteristics, employers can create an inclusive and equitable work environment where all employees can thrive without fear of unfair treatment or bias. Not only does this foster a positive, fair and diverse workplace culture, but it also ensures compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

For support with your policies and procedures, or staff management from our team of HR consultants, you can find out about how to work with Bespoke HR here. 

Written by:

Marketing Team
Marketing Team - We are a team of HR and business consultants based in Guildford, Surrey and work with hundreds of clients across a range of industries ranging from healthcare, hospitality and finance to media, manufacturing and IT.