The language of equalities and types of discrimination*:


Protected characteristics

The term used throughout the Equality Act 2010 to refer to: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex (gender), sexual orientation and pregnancy and maternity.

Types of prohibited conduct




Unwanted conduct related to a person’s protected characteristic/s which has the purpose or effect either of violating a person’s dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.



Treating a person unfavourably because they have taken (or might be taking) action under the Equality Act or supporting somebody who is doing so.


Direct Discrimination

Different treatment of two individuals where the reason for the difference in treatment is a protected characteristic.


Indirect discrimination

A practice or policy or action which may at first appear neutral in its effects, but at closer examination disproportionately and adversely effects a person’s protected characteristic.

Types of prohibited conduct


Discrimination by association


Where a person does not have a protected characteristic themselves but is treated less favourably because of their relationship with someone who does e.g. the parent of a disabled child.


Discrimination by perception

Acting or behaving in a discriminatory way towards a person due to the belief that they have a protected characteristic, whether or not they have such a characteristic.


Discrimination arising from a disability

Treating a disabled person unfavourably because of something arising from their impairment.


Positive discrimination

Unlawful action taken by an HEI to overcome disadvantage for some protected groups who are socially or economically excluded.

Advancing Equality

Impact assessment

A systematic process of review of policies, procedures, practices, plans and strategies to identify and mitigate against any discriminatory practice.

Implementation of reasonable adjustments

Taking steps to ensure disabled staff, students and visitors are not placed at a ‘substantial’ disadvantage by the way an institution operates.  It includes removing or modifying barriers which disable people, as well as providing auxiliary aids and services.

Inclusive environment (inclusive practice)

A setting which is designed to recognise, celebrate and promote equality and diversity.   The approach considers attitudes as well as behaviour and practices.

Political correctness

Deliberately using expressions, actions or language so as not to marginalize or insult people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against.


*  Information extracted from Equality Challenge Unit’s Equality and diversity training materials (REF : handbook for trainers) March 2012