Equality and discrimination

Creating fair workplaces

Fairness in the workplace is a vital part of a successful business or public body. It is supported by the law - the Equality Act 2010 - and also makes good business sense in running and developing an organisation.

The aim of the Equality Act is to improve equal job opportunities and fairness for employees and job applicants. Organisations should have policies in place so these outcomes happen and, just as importantly, to prevent discrimination.

Under the Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of nine areas termed in the legislation as protected characteristics:

Did you know that that we have free, downloadable templates to help you manage staff, including an equality policy template? See our Managing staff tools and templates. 

Discrimination and protected characteristics guidance video

This video explains the main types of discrimination (direct, indirect, harassment, victimisation) and introduces the nine protected characteristics.

These types of discrimination can apply differently depending on protected characteristics and circumstances. For a more detailed explanation read pdf  Equality and discrimination: understand the basics [415kb] or view the following guidance video which explains the differences further.

View or download the set of three key Acas guides

Key points

Equality and discrimination top tips

View or share our Equality and discrimination 'top tips' which outline the basic points you must know to comply with the law.

You can also sign up to the free Acas e-newsletter for more top tips and guidance updates.


Business case for encouraging equality and preventing discrimination

Additional factors organisations should take into account include.

Business case report

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has produced a report on the Business Case for Equality and Diversity available from GOV.UK - The business case for equality and diversity: a survey of the academic literature.

The report says the firms that have benefited from equality and diversity have done so by making them part of their business strategy, instead of treating them separately.

Evidence, though, shows there is not a "one-size-fits all" approach. Businesses and organisations know their own markets and sectors best, and should address equality and diversity with that in mind. That does not mean they can ignore equality and diversity if they think they are not in their business interests, as employers must still comply with the law.

The report suggests businesses may be overlooking potential advantages. For example, having staff with roots in other countries and cultures can help a firm build relations with a wider range of customers, and market its products or services more appropriately and sensitively. A driver for some firms is in enhancing a brand's reputation.

Benefits of promoting equality and diversity

A better chance:

Acas training and other ways that Acas can help

Acas offers a range of advice and support for businesses and individuals dealing with equality and discrimination issues.

Try Acas Learning OnLine, Helpline Online, view our range of Training or visit 'Equality and diversity: how Acas can help' designed for employers to improve practices and embed new ways of working.

Featured training - Is it OK to ask? A new practical scenario-based diversity course

This course focuses on some of the common and often complex situations that employers may face when managing a diverse workforce.

Find out more by visiting the 'Is it OK to ask?' page.

View Acas training on equality and diversity and discrimination on our Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010 events page. You can also use our Helpline Online tool which can help answer any questions you have on equality or other management and employment relations areas.

Workshops, projects and business solutions

Let us know how we can help