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Equality Definitions

Understand the key terms and definitions  you need to know for equality, diversity and accessibility compliance

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

Acquired Gender
The gender that a person acquires via the gender transition process. This term is used on legal documents in the UK.
N.B. It is not always necessary for a person to undergo a surgical intervention to change their gender.

Active Bystander
A bystander is someone who witnesses an incident or event - for example, sexual harassment, prejudice or discrimination. An active bystander is someone who decides to act, intervene or call it out. See also Passive Bystander.

Adjustments
See Reasonable Adjustments.

Advisory and Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
A public body in the UK which works with employers and employees to build better employment relations, solve problems and improve performance. ACAS plays an important role in arbitrating in disputes without the need to refer cases to an Employment Tribunal. Companies are also required to demonstrate that they comply with ACAS guidelines when managing grievances, disciplinary action and redundancy.
See also Employment Tribunal.

Affinity Bias
Affinity bias (also known as similarity bias) is a form of unconscious bias. It's our tendency to gravitate towards people who are just like us, who look and talk like us, are from the same social background, share the same interests, etc. We may actively avoid or even dislike people who aren’t the same.

Age
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their age. This includes the person's age (eg 30-year-olds), or specific age groups (eg over 60s, 18-30s).

Ageism
Discrimination, prejudice or treating someone less favourably on the grounds of age. Young and old people are especially affected by ageism.

Antisemitism
This is discrimination aimed specifically against those who are either Jewish or of Jewish descent. Antisemitism can include direct discrimination based on ethnic origin, denial of the Holocaust, and implementation of policies designed to marginalise or victimise members of the Jewish community.

Asylum Seeker
An asylum seeker is someone who leaves their country of birth and seeks refuge in another country, having claimed asylum under the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees 1951 on the grounds that they will face persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political belief, or membership of a particular social group if they are returned to their home country. The person remains an asylum seeker while their application is pending. See also Refugee.

Attribution Bias
Attribution bias is a form of unconscious bias. It's where we interpret events and behaviours based on our past experiences, observations or interactions. Generally, we attribute things that we've done well to our personality or own merit, but things that have gone badly to external events that were beyond our control. With other people, we usually think the opposite. If they've done well, we may claim that they got lucky, but, if things go wrong, we blame them personally.

B

Barrier
This is something that creates a disadvantage or difficulty for an individual or group with one or more protected characteristics.

Bias
This is a tendency to show favour or prejudice towards or against an individual, group or belief. Bias may be unconscious (implicit) or conscious (explicit). Our biases may be positive or negative. It's important to be awareness of any biases you have. If they are left unchecked, this can lead to unintentional bias (promoting people who are only 'like you') or, in extreme cases, outright discrimination.
To find out about your biases, you can take an Implicit Association Test (IAT).
See also Unconscious Bias.

Binary Identity
The belief that there are only two genders, which are opposites (male and female), and people belong to one of these two genders.
See also Non-binary Identity and Gender Identity.

Biphobia
Prejudice towards someone's actual or perceived bisexual orientation.

Bisexual
A man or woman who is sexually attracted to people of both sexes.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)
This is a term used to refer to collective ethnic minority (i.e. non-white) populations in the UK. Note: critics argue the term excludes other ethnic minorities and implies that Black and Asian people are separate from other ethnic minorities.
See also Black Minority Ethnic (BME).

Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement
This is a social justice movement which aims "to bring about justice, healing and freedom to Black people across the globe". The movement started in July 2013 with the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager. It gained international attention following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, where an estimated 15-26 million people participated in BLM protests across the United States.
See also #MeToo Movement.

Black Minority Ethnic (BME)
This is a term used to describe collective ethnic minority (i.e. non-white) populations in the UK. Note: critics argue the term excludes other ethnic minorities and implies that Black people are separate from other ethnic minorities.
See also Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME).

'Blind' Application
This refers to the process of anonymising - i.e. removing all distinguishing or identifying characteristics from - a job candidate's application in order to remove bias and ensure a fairer selection process for all. It includes removing names, gender, age, etc and can also include arranging for third parties to conduct interviews to encourage objectivity.

Bullying
Bullying is not defined in employment law. However, ACAS defines it as, "offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied".
The Health and Safety Executive says bullying "involves negative behaviour being targeted at an individual, or individuals, repeatedly and persistently over time" rather than a one-off incident.

Bystander
A bystander is someone who witnesses an incident or event - for example, sexual harassment, prejudice or bias.
See Bystander Intervention and Active/Passive Bystander.

Bystander Intervention
A bystander is someone who witnesses an incident or event - for example, sexual harassment, prejudice or bias. Bystander intervention refers to whether and how exactly they responded.
See Active Bystander and Passive Bystander.

C

Cisgender (cis)
Someone who identifies with their birth sex or the gender they were assigned at birth. The term refers to anyone who is not transgender.

Civil Partnership
See Marriage and Civil Partnership.

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is a form of unconscious bias. This is where you have a tendency to reach conclusions or make inferences about someone or an event based on your own beliefs, prejudices and views, instead of merit. Once you've made a judgement about someone, you look for other evidence that confirms or supports your views. You may also dismiss or play down evidence that suggests your original assessment is wrong.

Contrast Bias
Contrast bias is a form of unconscious bias. This is where you have a tendency to compare information you've just received with what's gone before. So, instead of objectively measuring someone against specific job criteria, you might compare them to the candidate you've just seen.

Cyber Harassment or Bullying
Using text messages, emails or the internet to harass or bully someone. It can take many forms, from inappropriate advances online, to unwanted sexually explicit emails or text messages, threats of sexual violence and hate speech that targets someone because of their gender, sexual orientation or disability.

D

Direct Discrimination
Direct discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfairly or less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic they possess. Examples include failing to shortlist someone because of their race or failing to recruit or promote a person with a disability that will not impact on their ability to perform the job. See also Indirect Discrimination.

Disability
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their disability. A disability is any physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities.

Disadvantaged
Disadvantaged means being treated less favourably than another, being held back, experiencing harm or bias. It can apply to individuals or groups relating to the protected characteristics.

Discrimination
The act of treating somebody less favourably based solely on a protected characteristic (or in circumstances when a person is assumed to have a protected characteristic). For instance, an employer discriminates if they refuse to hire a candidate based on their race or gender.

Discrimination can also include setting a policy or criteria which, even if applied equally, disadvantages certain individuals or groups with protected characteristics. For example, setting a minimum height requirement may discriminate against women or people of specific ethnic origin.
See also Direct Discrimination and Indirect Discrimination.

Discrimination by Perception
Discrimination by perception occurs when an individual is treated less favourably than another because of a protected characteristic they are thought to possess. For example, denying someone a promotion because they are believed to be gay or transgender.

Discrimination by Association
Discrimination by association occurs when an individual is treated less favourably than another because of their association with someone who possesses a protected characteristic. For example, being refused entry to a nightclub because of your association with a friend who has a learning disability.

Discriminatory Advertising
Any form of advertising that could be viewed as discrimination against individuals or groups with particular protected characteristics. The Equality Act 2010 makes publishers, like newspapers, legally liable for any discriminatory advertisements that they disseminate. Both publishers and advertisers can potentially be held liable for discriminatory adverts, including job adverts.

Disciplinary Action
Disciplinary action may be taken if difficulties arise during the course of your employment.

Companies have disciplinary procedures which set out what is expected of workers in respect of performance and conduct - as well as the consequences of failing to meet these standards. They provide a course of action to improve performance (eg training), and provide contact points and timescales for resolving concerns and issues internally. Disciplinary procedures can also demonstrate to an Employment Tribunal that the correct procedures have been followed if someone is dismissed. See also Grievance and Employment Tribunal.

Diversity
Diversity is about recognising people's differences in terms of age, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, skills, personalities, political and ideological backgrounds, and so on. It includes but is not limited to protected characteristics. Companies should be representative of their customers and the communities they serve. It's also important to acknowledge the value of different perspectives in decision making.
See also Inclusion.

Dual Discrimination
This is where a person is discriminated against in respect of two protected characteristics. For instance, if a company discriminates against somebody because of both their race and age, it is dual discrimination. They may make separate claims for each protected characteristic.

Dual Heritage
This is a term increasingly used to describe people with parents from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Biracial and multiracial may also be used, rather than mixed race (previously included in the 2011 census).

Due Regard
Having 'due regard' means that a public sector organisation consciously considers the need to fulfil its duties set out under the equality duty - namely to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct prohibited under the Equality Act, to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between people who share protected characteristics and those who do not.
See also Public Sector Equality Duty.

E

Employment Tribunal
An independent tribunal which is responsible for hearing claims and making decisions in cases where people believe they have received unlawfully. Claims may be brought for unfair dismissal, discrimination, unfair deductions from pay, and so on.
See also Advisory and Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

Equal Pay Audit
A review usually carried out by employers or auditors to determine whether pay and benefits with the organisation result in unequal pay (pay gaps) between men and women. In the past, these audits have focused on gender pay gaps but increasingly the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is encouraging companies to focus on differences in pay in respect of all the protected characteristics (eg race, disability, etc).
See also Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Gender Pay Gap.

Equal Pay
This arose as a result of historic inequalities between the pay of men and women (notably at Ford Dagenham). Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate between men and women in respect of pay and conditions for the same or similar work, equivalent work or work of equal value.

Equal Pay Audits
Equal Pay Audits may be carried out to identify whether there is unequal pay in companies. Differences between the pay of people with protected characteristics and those who do not share those characteristics may constitute direct or indirect discrimination.
See also Equal Pay Audit, Like Work, Equivalent Work and Work of Equal Value.

Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act was introduced by the UK Government in 2010 - superseding the earlier patchwork of discrimination laws related to age, sex, race, equal pay, religion and disability - to provide consistent protection against discrimination on the grounds of the nine protected characteristics. It strengthened existing provisions, extended others to include age discrimination and also introduced the Equality Duty.

Equality And Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
This is the UK's statutory body which was established to "promote and uphold equality and human rights ideals and laws across England, Scotland and Wales". The non-statutory body was established in 2006 and operates independently of government.
Scotland has a separate Scottish Human Rights Commission operating alongside the EHRC.

Equality Duty
Sometimes also referred to as Public Sector Equality Duty, this is a list of duties that public sector organisations must undertake to comply with the Equality Act 2010. Organisations must, for instance, eliminate discrimination and other conduct prohibited under the Equality Act, make decisions that advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between people with protected characteristics and those who do not share them. 

Equality Impact Assessment
This is a formal audit of new or existing policies, practices, services, etc to assess their impact on individuals or groups with a shared protected characteristic. These impacts may be positive or negative, but where adverse impacts are noted, action should be taken to eliminate or reduce this.

Equality Of Opportunity
The fundamental belief that every person should have the same opportunity as everybody else to succeed or achieve their goals. Specifically, individuals should be free from artificial barriers, such as race and gender discrimination. Opportunities should be available to all, through free and fair competition, and awarded based on merit.

Equivalent Work
This is one of the principles used to describe equal work with reference to equal pay. The others are Like Work and Work of Equal Value.
This refers to work that has been rated under a job evaluation scheme to be of equal value in respect of how demanding it is, the effort, skill, decision making and responsibility involved. For example, an occupational health role may be rated as equivalent to a production supervisor when assessing the elements of the job. See also Like Work and Work of Equal Value.

Ethnic Origin
An element of a person's identity that can include their skin colour, nationality, race, religion or cultural heritage, or a group of people who share a common history. Examples of people with a shared ethnic origin include Black American, Rastafarians, Chinese, White British, Sikhs, Jews, Pakistani, Irish Travellers, Romani Gypsies, and more. Ethnic origin is not the same as national origin.

F

Female-to-male
Also know by the acronyn FtM, referring to a person who was assigned female sex at birth but has a male gender identity and transitions to live as a man. See also Male-to-female.

Flexible Working

Working practices and patterns that offer a better work-life balance. This may include job sharing, homeworking, part-time, flexitime or staggered hours. Workers are entitled to request flexible working after 26 weeks' consecutive service and employers need to consider their request.

FtM
An acronym that stands for Female-to-male, referring to a person who was assigned female sex at birth but has a male gender identity and transitions to live as a man. See also MtF.

Fostering Good Relations
This is part of the Public Sector Equality Duty. It refers to an approach that attempts to tackle prejudices and destructive beliefs in order to produce a more cohesive and productive society. Fostering good relations often involves developing more understanding between people or groups that share protected characteristics and those who do not.

G

Gay
This refers to a man or woman who is sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. Note: some people find this term offensive due to its legal and/or prejudicial uses in the past.

Gender
This is a legal definition in law that states that a person is either male or female. The terms 'gender' and 'sex' are sometimes used to mean the same thing. However, sex normally refers to physical or biological characteristics that make someone male or female at birth, whereas gender identity can be more 'fluid' and describes the experience or behaviour associated with being male or female.

Gender Balance
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, this refers to "human resources and [the] equal participation of women and men in all areas of work, projects or programmes".

Gender Dysphoria
This is a recognised medical condition. It refers to the sense of unease that a person experiences because of a mismatch between their biological (birth) sex and gender identity. It can range from feelings of discomfort to intense and severe anxiety or depression.
See also Gender Identity.

Gender Equality
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, gender equality refers to "equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys".

Gender Expression
The way someone publicly expresses their gender. It includes dress, hair, mannerisms, body language, voice, as well as their chosen name and pronoun. See also Gender Identity.

Gender Identity
A person's subjective experience of their gender or the gender with which they associate. For instance, a person classified as a woman at birth may identify as a woman, a man or somewhere in-between these identities. Gender is increasingly recognised as a spectrum, so a person may identify as non-binary - meaning they do not identify as strictly male or female. Individuals may choose to identify as both male and female, or neither (agender). See also Binary and Non-binary Identity.

Gender Pay Gap
Since 2017, companies with more than 250 employees are required to publish figures about their gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is the difference between average hourly earnings of men and women, expressed as a percentage relative to men's earnings. Companies must publish the data on their website and report this data to government online.
See also Equal Pay and Equal Pay Audit.

Gender Reassignment
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of gender reassignment. Gender reassignment is the process of transitioning from one gender to another.

Gender Reassignment Discrimination
Discrimination, prejudice or treating someone less favourably on the grounds of gender reassignment, whether they have had surgery or not.

Gender Recognition Act 2004
This Act gives people with gender dysphoria legal recognition of their acquired sex in law, allowing them to obtain a new birth certificate for all legal purposes, including marriage. Evidence must be presented to a Gender Recognition Panel, which grants a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). It is unlawful to disclose that someone has a GRC without their consent.

Gender Stereotyping
Ascribing particular traits, attributes or determining roles to people based on their gender. This is often as a result of societal norms, prejudices or ingrained attitudes. Examples include - but are not limited to - "Women are graceful and men are muscular", "All girls like dolls and all boys like trains", "All women are empathetic and make good caregivers" and "All men are aggressive" or "All men excel at STEM subjects".
See Prejudice and Stereotyping.

Grievance
A grievance is a complaint or problem arising in the course of your employment. It may relate to a dispute, a problem you're experiencing, unfair treatment relating to protected characteristics, a performance issue, or something else. Companies have grievance procedures which are designed to provide a course of action if matters cannot be resolved informally, and to provide contact points and timescales for resolving concerns and issues internally. See also Disciplinary Action.

H

Halo Effect
The halo effect is a form of unconscious bias. This is where you make positive assumptions about people, which may or may not be accurate, without really knowing them. For example, once you learn something positive or impressive about them (eg they went to a particular university), you may automatically hold them in high regard and be 'blind' to others' skills. See also Horns Effect.

Harassment
The Equality Act 2010 in the UK defines harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (or related to gender reassignment, sex or another protected characteristic) that:

  • Violates someone's dignity, or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment

Such conduct is not limited to physical acts, e.g. assault, stalking, touching, hugging, groping, massaging, kissing, or indecent exposure, but also covers a wide range of behaviour.

Heterosexual
Someone who is sexually attracted to people of the opposite gender.

Heterosexism
The assumption that all individuals are heterosexual or that the group of people who are not is so small as not to merit equal consideration. Heterosexists assert that this belief arises from the law, culture, and family.

Homophobia
Prejudice or discrimination based on someone's perceived or actual sexual orientation. This can range from taunts, jokes and graffiti, to discrimination, threats and physical violence.
See also Homophobic Bullying.

Homophobic Bullying
A category of bullying characterised by hostility to a person based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation. Homophobic bullying may include verbal abuse, physical threats, unwanted physical contact or displays of offensive materials designed to intimidate.
See also Homophobia.

Horns Effect
The horns effect is a form of unconscious bias. It is the opposite to the Halo effect. This is where you make negative assumptions about people, which may or may not be accurate without really knowing them. For example, once you learn something negative or unpleasant about them (eg they have a mannerism you find annoying or worked for a rival company in the past), you may struggle to judge them impartiality (on merit) or move beyond that. See also Halo Effect.

I

Impairment
The specific nature or grounds on which a person is classified as disabled. For instance, a person might have a hearing, motor or speech impairment. Impairments may be physical or mental. They may be permanent and long term, or temporary.

Inclusion
Inclusion is about respecting and valuing people's differences and their contributions so they are able to reach their full potential. To do that, you need to create a supportive, collaborative environment which has everyone's full participation and confidence. You can foster a more inclusive workplace by being open to differences in beliefs and values and taking proactive steps to make people feel welcome. See also Diversity.

Indirect Discrimination
Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy, provision, criterion or requirement, even if applied equally to all, is particularly disadvantageous for people with a protected characteristic, unless such a requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (known as objective justification). Examples include:
• Unnecessarily establishing a rule of minimum height that may exclude people of certain ethnic origins or women
• Requiring a fluent English speaker for a post that does not require this skill
• Not recognising overseas qualifications that are comparable with domestic qualifications
See also Direct Discrimination.

Inequality
This refers to a lack of equality. For example, certain individuals or groups with protected characteristics may be treating less favourably, have fewer opportunities or experience less favourable outcomes than those that do not share those characteristics.

Institutional Racism
Coined by the MacPherson Report after the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent enquiry, institutional racism is where the policies, procedures and structures of an organisation discriminate against people on the grounds of race, ethnicity or national origin. Amendments were subsequently made to legislation making institutional racism unlawful. A public sector duty was also introduced requiring public sector organisations to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct prohibited under the Equality Act, and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people who share protected characteristics and those who do not.

Intersectional Discrimination (Intersectionality)
Also known as Combined Discrimination. This is where someone is discriminated against due to a combination of two or more protected characteristics. For example, a policy that prevented workers wearing headscarves specifically discriminates against Muslim women. Since this would not impact Muslim men or other women, it cannot be seen as purely sex or religious discrimination. Rather, it is the specific combination of being both Muslim and female.

Islamophobia
Prejudice, harassment, abuse, discrimination, hatred, fear or bias towards those who follow Islam, of Muslims generally or towards people of Arabian or Asian origin, sometimes including those who do not follow Islam. See also Racism.

J



Justification
Companies may be required to demonstrate that their discriminatory actions or policies are lawful. A range of exceptions or justifications for discrimination are set out in the Equality Act 2010. See also Lawful Discrimination and Objective Justification.

L

Lawful Discrimination
The Equality Act sets out exceptions and specific circumstances in which organisations or public bodies may lawfully discriminate against individuals or groups with protected characteristics. For example, a women’s refuge may seek women only for support worker roles in this environment, or similarly a male minister of religion may be appointed, such as a Catholic priest. See also Objective Justification.

LGBTQ
An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. Variations may include LGTBQQIAAP, with the additional letters standing for Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally and Pansexual. Most often, the abbreviation LGBT or LGBTQ+ is used to refer to individuals or groups with protected characteristics based on their sex and sexual orientation.

Like Work
This is one of the principles used to describe equal work with reference to equal pay. The others are Equivalent Work and Work of Equal Value.
'Like work' refers to work that is broadly similar or the same. Generally, it refers to work with similar tasks that require similar knowledge or skills. Any differences are not considered important. For example, women and men who work at a supermarket performing similar tasks with similar skill levels. See also Equivalent Work and Work of Equal Value.

M

Mansplaining
A pejorative term used to describe a man explaining something to a women in an oversimplified, condescending or overconfident way, sometimes inaccurately.

Marriage and Civil Partnership
These are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their marriage or civil partnership. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, or between a same-sex couple. Same-sex couples can have their relationship legally recognised as a 'civil partnership'. Civil partners must not be treated less favourably than married couples unless this is allowed under the Equality Act (eg the purpose of employment is an organised religion, such as a Catholic priest).

Meritocracy
The opportunity to be recognised and advance on merit, based on your talent, accomplishments, skills and ability.

#MeToo Movement
This is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual abuse which aims to empower (mostly) women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment at work, providing solidarity to others. The #MeToo hashtag was first used in 2006 on social media by Tarana Burke, an activist and sexual harassment survivor herself, who also founded the movement. It gained widespread international attention in October 2017 following the Harvey Weinstein case, which resulted in high-profile posts by celebrities, sparking outrage and dismissals. See also Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement.

Monitoring
The collection, tracking and analysis of data to monitor performance, progress or service use. This data collection may be carried out at different times (eg at selection or recruitment, on delivery of services, etc) and in different ways (eg via questionnaires, observation, focus groups, etc). Equalities monitoring enables companies to monitor the experiences and outcomes for individuals and groups with protected characteristics.

MtF
An acronym that stands for Male-to-Female, referring to a person who was assigned male sex at birth but has a female gender identity and transitions to live as a woman. See also FtM.

N

National Origin
The country in which a person was born or the nation from which they originate: for example, Wales, India or China. Importantly, national origin is not the same as ethnic origin. A British citizen may have a national origin of England, Wales, Scotland, Jersey, and so on, depending on where they come from.

Nationality
The legal status of an individual stating that they are the citizen of a country and subject to its laws, especially while within its territories. Nationality is often stated on a person's passport. For example, someone who emigrates to Australia from the UK, applies for naturalisation and passes the citizenship test may have Australian nationality.

Non-binary Identity
The belief that a person may identify as somewhere in-between (or beyond) the two binary categories of man or woman. A person who is non-binary may not identify as strictly male or female, may switch between male and female, or may choose to identify as both or neither (agender). Gender is increasingly recognised as a spectrum. See also Binary Identity and Gender Identity.

O

Objective Justification
This is an exception or defence for applying a policy, rule, criterion or practice that would otherwise be unlawful. For example, advertising vacancies to include women only or appointing only men to a specific role - such as a support worker in a women's refuge or a male attendant in all-male changing room. Organisations must be able to demonstrate that the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. See also Lawful Discrimination.

P

Parental Leave
This is leave that is granted to either parent to take care of a child. Typically, though not always, it follows a period of maternity leave.

Passive Bystander
A bystander is someone who witnesses an incident or event - for example, sexual harassment, prejudice or bias. A passive bystander is someone who decides not to act and ignores it. See also Active Bystander.

Perceptive Discrimination
A situation in which a person is discriminated against based on a protected characteristic they are thought to possess. For instance, an employer may deny someone a promotion because he perceives them to be transsexual, whether they are or not.

Positive Action or Advantage
This refers to lawful action that may be taken by a company to remove barriers, redress imbalances or overcome disadvantages that people with protected characteristics (eg gender, race, disability) may face. For example, it could include positive steps to encourage under-represented individuals or groups to apply for a job or study at an educational establishment (such as targeted advertising at different groups). You need to ensure that any planned steps, interventions or initiatives are lawful. See also Positive Discrimination.

Positive Discrimination
Positive discrimination is the act of automatically favouring, without consideration of merit, individuals or groups with protected characteristics over others, whether in recruitment, education, or when accessing services. Examples include setting an arbitrary quota to appoint 10 BAME job candidates a month or excluding people who do not have the protected characteristic. Positive discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act in the UK. See also Positive Advantage.

Pregnancy and Maternity
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity. Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby, while maternity is the period after the birth of a baby that is linked to maternity leave. Women are protected from discrimination up to 26 weeks after giving birth and are protected from less favourable treatment due to breastfeeding.

Prejudice
This refers to the act of judging someone or making (often negative) assumptions about them based on how they look or the group they belong to (eg all people with tattoos are poorly educated). See also Stereotypes, Bias and Unconscious Bias.

Pronoun
The words used to describe someone's gender - for instance, "she/her" or "he/his". Increasingly, people are using gender-neutral language instead - such as "they/their" or "ze/zir". See Gender Expression.

Proportionate Means
The term 'Proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim' is used as justification for discrimination in indirect discrimination or discrimination relating to disability. It describes the least harmful or least disruptive means to meet a lawful and valid aim. See Objective Justification.

Protected Characteristics
The Equality Act 2010 sets out nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including non-belief), sex and sexual orientation.
It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of the protected characteristics, or because of their association with someone in relation to the protected characteristics. See Direct Discrimination and Indirect Discrimination.

Public Sector Equality Duty
A legal duty which requires public sector organisations, including hospitals, councils and local public service providers, to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct prohibited under the Equality Act, to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between people who share protected characteristics and those who do not.
Public sector organisations must consider how their decisions and policies might affect individuals and groups with protected characteristics. For instance, a public sector service should provide disability access to its premises. See also Equality Duty.

Q



Quota
A pre-defined target or measure, usually introduced to address gender inequality. Examples include a quota ensuring that 50% of a Parliament is made up of women or the '1 by 21' target outlined in the Parker Review requiring FTSE100 companies to appoint at least one board-level director from an ethnic minority background by 2021. See also Positive Action and Positive Discrimination.

R

Race
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of race. This includes a person's race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.

Racism
Discrimination, prejudice or treating someone less favourably on the grounds of their race, ethnicity or national origin. See also Institutional Racism.

Reasonable Adjustments
These are changes or adaptations that may be made to a practice, criteria, provision or workplace for people with disabilities, a pregnant workers or someone undergoing gender reassignment to assist them at work or in relation to the use of services where they may otherwise be at a disadvantage. Companies and service providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments. Examples include the provision of auxiliary aids, changes or adaptations to building access, providing leaflets in different formats (eg Braille, large print), or extending the time allowed to complete a written examination.

Religion or Belief
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their religion or beliefs. This refers to a person's religious and philosophical beliefs, including lack of belief - ie atheism. To be covered by the act, such belief should affect the way you live or your life choices.

Refugee
This is a person whose application for asylum under the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees 1951 has been granted. Refugees in the UK are initially granted five years' leave to remain and must apply for further leave after this time. See also Asylum Seeker.

Respect
This means taking other views and needs into account in the way you treat other people.

S

Sex
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their sex (gender). So, for example, a company cannot treat a women less favourably than a man, or vice versa (such as offering women free entry to a club but making men pay). It is also unlawful to restrict employment to one gender unless an exception applies under the Equality Act 2010 - eg appointing a woman in a domestic violence refuge, an attendant in a female changing room, or a male rabbi in an orthodox synagogue. (This is known as an objective justification.)

Sexism
Discrimination, prejudice or treating someone less favourably on the grounds of their sex (gender). Historically, women have faced discrimination and limited opportunities on the grounds of their gender in relation to employment, pay, voting rights, etc. However, men can also be affected.

Sexual Harassment
This is where someone with a protected characteristic is subjected to unwanted behaviour, and is of a sexual nature which:

  • Violates their dignity
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
  • It can include verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct. While the person's perception of the conduct is key, consideration must also be given to whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.

Sexual Orientation
This is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of sexual orientation. This refers to whether a person is sexually attracted towards their own sex, the opposite sex or both sexes.

Similarity Bias
Similarity bias (also known as Affinity Bias) is a form of unconscious bias. It's our tendency to gravitate towards people who are just like us, who look and talk like us, are from the same social background, share the same interests, etc. We may actively avoid or even dislike people who aren’t the same.

Social Model Of Disability
A broader definition of disability than the one included in the Equality Act 2010. The Social Model of Disability encourages making adjustments to all aspects of society and the environment to accommodate people with disabilities. This contrasts with the Medical Model of Disability which generally focuses on impairment and what people with disabilities cannot do.

Stereotype
This is a fixed, often negative impression that all people who belong to a certain group are the same. Large groups of people (sometimes with the same protected characteristics) are assumed to have the same traits or characteristics. Stereotypes may be positive (eg “All people who wear glasses are smart”) but are often negative (eg “All people with tattoos are poorly educated”, “All young people who wear hoodies are thugs”, etc). See also Prejudice.

T

Third-Party Harassment
This is where a third party - such as an employee or service user - is a victim of harassment by someone who is not a member of the organisation or company with whom they have their primary relationship. A worker, for example, could face third-party harassment from one of our customers or suppliers.

Transgender
The term used to describe someone whose gender identity or gender expression differs from their birth sex. It includes transsexual people and others who do not see themselves as exclusively male or exclusively female. Transgender people may or may not choose to transition to a different gender via surgery and/or hormone treatment. See also Gender Identity, Non-binary Identity, MtF and FtM.

Transphobia
Prejudice or discrimination based on someone's perceived or actual gender identity or gender expression.

Transsexual
This refers to someone who plans to undergo, is currently undergoing or has undergone the gender reassignment process to transition from a female to a male (trans men) or from a male to a female (trans women). See also Gender Dysphoria and Gender Recognition Act.

U

Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias (also known as implicit or hidden bias) is a form of subconscious prejudice or belief which may relate to the protected characteristics. We all have the tendency to make 'snap' decisions, assumptions or judgments about people or events subconsciously, based on our past experiences and background. This can sometimes lead to stereotyping or certain individuals or groups being disadvantaged. It is important to be aware of your own unconscious (hidden) biases. You can do this by taking an Implicit Association Test (IAT). See also Bias.

V

Vicarious Liability
This is a legal stipulation that makes employers also liable for breaches of the Equality Act by their employees, unless the organisation can prove that it took all reasonable measures to prevent discrimination and harassment. Companies must prove that the person who broke the law was acting under their own volition. See also Third-Party Harassment.

Victimisation
Victimisation occurs when a person is treated less favourably because they have made or supported a complaint or grievance under the Equality Act, or are suspected of doing so.

Examples include:

  • An employee's promotion is blocked after they supported a colleague's race discrimination case
  • A retailer refuses to serve a former employee who previously complained about sexual harassment
  • An employee is treated less favourably because they have given evidence at a disciplinary hearing or tribunal case
  • A worker who made a successful claim for age discrimination is turned down for a job because a second employer thinks she may "cause trouble" there too

W

Work Of Equal Value
This is one of the principles used to describe equal work with reference to equal pay. The others are Equivalent Work and Like Work.Work of Equal Value is not Like Work and may not have been rated under a job evaluation scheme as being equivalent, but nonetheless may be considered of equal value in terms of the effort, skills required for the job, decision making and responsibility. For example, the position of the Head of Personnel may be comparable to the Head of Finance. The job title used is not relevant to the assessment. See also Like Work and Equivalent Work.

Equality, diversity training resources

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