Discrimination is when a person is treated differently because of who they are. It is against the law to discriminate.

The law on discrimination in England and Wales is set out in the Equality Act 2010, which protects everyone from discrimination. But to be protected by the law, it’s not enough just to show you have been treated unfairly.

Quiz Section 1

Q1. Conscious act.
Discrimination is always a conscious act. True or false?

People who discriminate don't always mean to do it.


We might not always know that our biases or beliefs about people have affected our decisions. There are lots of ways discrimination can be unconscious.

Discrimination can be down to processes as well as people. For example, a minimum height for a job may affect women applicants more than men.

Q2. Any reason?
Can discrimination be for any reason?

Discrimination does not mean anything that is unfair. People might be treated in some ways for lots of reasons. These may be a result of prejudice and might be unfair. But they are not all discrimination.


In England and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 lists the protected characteristics. Being treated in a different way based on any of these is discrimination.

Q3. Tick All
Which of the following are protected characteristics? (Tick all that apply)

Sex is a protected characteristic (protected under the Equality Act), and this covers men and women. People who are transgender, non-binary or gender fluid have protection under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.


Sexual preference or orientation is a protected characteristic.


The Equality Act uses the term gender reassignment. But not many people feel comfortable with that term anymore. It covers people who are transgender (or trans), non-binary or genderfluid. In general, these are people who identify with a gender that's different from their sex registered at birth.


Age discrimination can affect people of ANY age, not just older age groups.

Age is a protected characteristic. It doesn’t matter if someone is ‘too old’ or ‘too young’. For example, a ‘last in, first out’ approach to losing a job. This might impact younger staff.

Age discrimination can only be ‘objectively justified’ where there are good reasons for doing so. For example where a job advert for construction workers requires applicants to be at least 18 years of age for health and safety reasons.


Both physical and mental disabilities are protected characteristics. If you have a condition with a substantial and long-term effect on how you live your life, it's likely to be covered by the protected characteristic of disability.


Mental health problems, like depression, are counted as a disability if they have a substantial and long-term effect on the way you live your life.

Q4. Tell.
Employees should tell their boss that they have a disability or other protected characteristics. True or false?

Staff do not have to tell anyone at work that they have a protected characteristic, apart from their age and their sex.


You do not have to tell your boss about a protected characteristic. But if someone has a disability it may be helpful to be open about this as they may be entitled to 'reasonable adjustments' to help them at work.

An employer may only ask about protected characteristics in certain cases. For instance, to find out if a staff member needs any 'reasonable adjustments'. Or to collect data to track how the business is doing on equality and the law.

Q5. Tick All
Which of these are ‘protected characteristics’? (Tick all that apply)

The Equality Act lists ‘race’ as a protected characteristic. This includes skin colour, your national and ethnic origins as well as your nationality (citizenship).


You are protected if you are discriminated against because you have a religious or philosophical belief, but also if you have no religious belief. Certain other beliefs are protected, but only those the courts think are serious and cover important aspects of human life and behaviour. Veganism, pacifism and humanism are all protected beliefs.


Body weight is not a protected characteristic.

It is not discrimination if a person is treated differently for being under or overweight. But it still could be unfair.

There may be exceptions, such as where weight is a symptom of a disability. Disability is protected.


Marriage and civil partnership are protected characteristics.


A criminal record is not a protected characteristic. If someone is treated differently because of a criminal record this would not be discrimination.

However, it might still class as unfair treatment if there is no good basis for it. For example, if their conviction doesn’t relate to the job they do.


Pregnancy and maternity is a protected characteristic. If someone is pregnant, or on maternity or paternity leave, they are protected. Likewise if they have adopted a child and take adoption leave.

Q6. What do you think is meant by Indirect Discrimination? (Tick all that apply)
What do you think is meant by 'indirect discrimination'? (Tick all that apply)

Saying something unkind about someone behind their back is not indirect discrimination. But if unkind words involve treating someone differently because they have a protected characteristic, it might be discrimination or harassment, even if the words were not said to the person directly.


This is the definition of indirect discrimination.

An example is the height requirement in the past to become a police officer. Although it seemed fair because it applied equally to all, women and people from certain ethnic groups were less likely to be able to meet it. The requirement was dropped because it was not needed to do the job. If you are affected like this by a rule or policy, you will have to think about why the rule is there. If it can be justified, it won’t be against the law.


The Equality Act protects people from being discriminated against because of the characteristics of someone they are associated with, such as a family member. This is called associative discrimination.

It might happen if you are refused membership of a club because your partner is Black or if you don’t get a job because you have a disabled child and your employer thinks you would take too much time off to care for them.

Q7 True or False: A mother cannot be selected for redundancy while she is off on maternity leave
You cannot be selected for redundancy if you are on maternity leave. True or false?

You can be made redundant while on maternity leave. But your employer must make sure the process is fair. You cannot be selected for redundancy because you are on maternity leave. You are also protected if you are selected because you are pregnant or because you are breastfeeding.


You can be made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave, even though it is a protected characteristic. This is also true of paternity or adoption leave. But yout employer must make sure the process is fair and does not indirectly discriminate against a particular group without good reason.

Q8 True or False? Small business owners can refuse service to anyone for any reason.
Small business owners can refuse service to anyone for any reason. True or false?

A business owner can refuse to serve someone EXCEPT where this is discriminatory.


A business cannot discriminate because a customer has a protected characteristic.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination:

  • in the workplace
  • when using public services
  • when using businesses like shops and restaurants.
Q9 True or False? Employers can be held responsible for any discrimination in the workplace.
Employers can be held responsible for any discrimination in the workplace. True or false?

Employers may be able to show they are not at fault.


If there’s evidence that your manager has discriminated against you, the employer may well be responsible for their actions. But your manager might also be personally responsible. Sometimes, the employer can’t be held responsible:

  • If the discrimination took place outside of the workplace (eg on a night out in a pub), the employer can’t be held responsible.
  • If the employer took ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent the discrimination from happening, they can’t be held responsible. This might include putting in place an equality and anti-bullying policy, making sure staff know about it, holding regular training and running an effective complaints policy to deal with such issues. In situations like these, your manager might be responsible, but your employer has a defence.


Oh dear!

It looks like you gave a few wrong answers. It’s good to understand discrimination law, but it is a complex topic. Remember that the law differs depending on where you are. These laws only apply in England and Wales.

Read the information above to understand more. Then try the quiz again to check if you’ve improved.

You can find out more with the links below.

Well done!

It seems like you have a pretty good grasp of discrimination law.

This quiz is just a quick summary of some of the issues involved. Remember that the law differs depending on where you are. These laws only apply in England and Wales.

Explore more with the links below.

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If you think you have been discriminated against at work…

You can call the Acas helpline to talk about your options on 0300 123 1100
More contact details here.