See No Bounds
See No Bounds

The Nine protected characteristics

Under the Equality Act, there are nine protected characteristics

So here it is our blog about The Equality Act and The Nine Protected Characteristics. The policy was set out with the intention of protecting our human rights. We fully understand this bit and we do get the point of having this policy in place. However, we can’t help but see some significant flaws in the principle.

The Act seems to cover ever little detail and is very effective at putting each of us nicely into a little box. We recently attended an equality’s conference where disability seemed to be high on the agenda. It was more by fate rather than intention but that was the direction the meeting seemed to go. 

This got me thinking, if Equality means Equal then why is it so important to take so much notice of our differences? Why cant we look more at our similarities?

Let come back to that but first lets view The Nine Protected Characteristics first. I have received the information below from the official Citizens advice website. Please visit this site if you do feel that you have actually been discriminated against. There is a lot of information around this for you to look at. 

9 characteristics of The Equality Act


What is meant by age? The age characteristic covers individual ages but also age groups. The term Age group means people of the same age or people in a particular age range. Here are some examples of age groups.

You’re 25 years old. You could belong to one of the following age groups:

    • 25 year olds
    • under 30s
    • over 20s
    • people in their 20’s
    • young adults.

You’re 78 years old. You could belong to one of the following age groups:

    • 78 year olds
    • over 70s
    • pensioners
    • senior citizens.



Sex applies to men and women of any age and therefore includes girls and boys. This Characteristic only covers the sex you was born with. There is a controversial conversation around this but that is covered in other characteristics.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is when you’re sexually attracted to people of you’re own sex – when you’re gay or lesbian, people of the opposite sex – when you’re heterosexual,  people of both sexes – when you’re bisexual.

 Please note that Sexual Orientation is different to Sex and Gender Reassignment. 

sexual orientation

Gender Reassignment

Gender reassignment covers those who want to change their gender, whether they go through with the medical treatment or not. So, this covers people who has had a complete gender reassignment. Individuals who is currently undergoing medical treatment to reassign their gender. It also covers people who have started the medical process but then has later decided to stop it.  

The gender reassignment characteristics will also cover those who decide to adopt the identity of their chosen gender without undergoing a medical gender reassignment. This would then cover those who chose to dress as their chosen gender, all the time or only occasionally.

If you cross-dress for some other reason than because you want to adopt your chosen gender – for example, as a joke or as a paid profession-  this is not considered gender reassignment.

Gender reassignment is a personal process rather than a medical one. You don’t have to undergo medical treatment and you don’t have to be under medical supervision.


With race it is often perceived as being your colour, however, this is not completely true. It covers colour, nationality, ethnic origin and national origin. 

Nationality means citizenship or membership of a particular nation. National origins means your connection to a country or nation through birth. It’s different from nationality although they can overlap. The English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish are all considered as nationalities.

Ethnic origins in the eyes of the law covers groups who share history and cultural traditions. These could be a language, religion or geographical origin. This also covers gypsies and travellers.

Religion or beliefs

Religion and beliefs covers any organised religion, for example Islam, Christianity Buddhism and Hinduism. Smaller religion sectors are also covered like Rasafarianism and Scientology. 

You are also covered by a specific denomination for example Protestant and Catholic. A religion is understood and decided by a court. They look at whether something has a clear structure and belief system in place to decide if its a religion under the terms of the law.

As part of this protective characteristic there is an area that covers beliefs in a religions central articles of faith, for example Christianity believe that Jesus is the son of God. In Islam the belief that women should cover her head or whole body and also in the belief of creationism or intelligent design. 

A philosophical belief is non religious and includes humanism, secularism and atheism. If you strongly believe in it and it concerns an important aspect of human life and behaviour the courts have granted that the belief in man-made climate change and spiritualism are considered as philosophical beliefs.  However, political beliefs are not covered.

Marriage and civil partnership

Your legally married if your union is recognised as a marriage under UK law, even if you didn’t get married in the UK. A civil partnership means a registered civil partnership covered by the act 2004. 

This does not cover single, engaged, divorced, living with someone, widowed or if someone thinks you are married even though you are not. However, if you are separated you are still covered. 


The definition of disability is set out in section 6 of the Equality Act  2010. It says you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment and if that impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

You have an impairment if your physical or mental abilities are reduced in some way. It could be the result of a medical condition however it does not have to me medically diagnosed.

Conditions that are not covered are: hay fever, tattoos and piercings, a tendency to steal or set fire to things and a tendency to physically or sexually abuse others.

Pregnancy and Maternity

You are covered if you are pregnant, have a pregnancy-related illness or are on active maternity leave. However, once the maternity period is over then you would no longer be covered by this characteristic. 

Breastfeeding would not be covered here as this would be covered by sex. Other areas covered are adoption of a new born. It is not clear about fathers, nor is it clear about same sex parenting. For example a mother is covered but what if there is two females in the relationship. However if there are two males in the relationship and they adopt then would this be covered? These areas are not very clear.

Thoughts on The Equality Act.

As you can see The Nine Protective Characteristics of The Equality Act is well defined but in my opinion not very clear. You can find yourself covered by several groups and and different times of your life. The idea of equality is a demonstration of equal treatment and yet to me we are placed in a segregated box.

We know that it is important to have The Nine Protective Characteristics and this policy laid out but we don’t think it is clear cut. We definitely feel that it is open to individual impression and interpretation.  In the acts of the law these characteristics are there as a guide to prevent discrimination. However, it is not as simple as gaining an understanding.  If you feel that you are being subjected to any form of discrimination then there are websites you can visit but I would advise you gaining some professional assistance. 

There are also some areas that seem to be clear in one way but then not respected in others. For example racism against Black or Asian people is very clear and is often reported about, but in most of society racism against whites seem to be disregarded, never reported and therefore not addressed. This same example goes for physically apparent disabilities and invisible disabilities.  We are also very sure that there could be a claim that insurance companies discriminate against age when considering a policy or the cost of a policy. 


So for this summary lets take Jamie as an example. He is a white heterosexual disabled male. He has been subjected to discrimination in the past in a work place for being male as well as for being white and without surprise for being disabled. When this happens it can be hard to deal with and have a very adverse effect on your mental health. Jamie struggled as he could not find anywhere to turn to. However, it is important that these incidences are reported and addressed. So if you are experiencing this and need more advice then please follow the links below to a few websites that may be able to offer you some assistance.

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