Overview of equality legislation

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in employment or in the provision of training and education on the grounds of any of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Staff and students are protected in all aspects of the employment, education and/or training relationship, which includes: recruitment and selection, employment terms and conditions, promotion, transfers, access to benefits, appraisal/annual review, assessment of performance, dismissal and post-termination (such as providing references).

Discrimination can occur in several different ways, as follows:

Direct discrimination


This is where one individual is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because of a protected characteristic they have, or are thought to have (see perception discrimination), or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination


This is where a provision, criterion or practice applies equally to everyone but has, or would have, a disproportionate impact on those people who share a protected characteristic (e.g. it is more difficult for someone to comply with a requirement because of their religion or belief).

Discrimination by association


This is direct discrimination against an individual because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

Perception discrimination


This is direct discrimination against an individual where the person is treated less favourably than another, and the less favourable treatment is because others think they possess a protected characteristic. It applies even if the person does not actually possess that characteristic.



This is defined as unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either: (a) violating another person’s dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other person.



This occurs where an individual is subjected to less favourable treatment by reason of the fact that s/he has done a ’protected act‘ under the discrimination legislation – e.g. someone has made a complaint about discrimination on grounds of their age or sex, or helped somebody else to do so, and they are now being treated less favourably by their manager.

Positive Action

The College may take positive action in respect of access to facilities and training for specific groups who are under-represented. It would be reasonable to take action to increase applications for posts or study from a particular group of people, or provide work experience, outreach days or training programmes only for those people. These actions increase the numbers of eligible people by developing relevant skills and increasing applications from under-represented groups.

However, positive action is not the same as positive discrimination (which is prohibited), and the selection for admission to study or appointment to posts must therefore be made solely on the basis of merit.

Genuine Occupational Requirements

There are limited exemptions from liability in all the discrimination legislation. Thus where the sex, race, age, sexual orientation or religion or belief of an employee is required for the specific job he or she is required to do, that characteristic may amount to a genuine occupational requirement (GOR).

There must be a clear connection between the duties of the post in question and the characteristics required. An example might be the need to recruit a person from a particular racial group to act in a role written for a character from that racial group.

However, GORs are usually difficult to establish and anyone wishing to establish a GOR should discuss this with the Personnel Advisor before advertising the post.

Public Sector Equality Duty

As part of the Equality Act St Catherine’s College has a public sector equality duty which came into force in April 2011. The equality duty covers all the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act with the exception of marriage and civil partnership.

Under the duty the College must have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act;
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Having ‘due regard’ means consciously considering the three aims listed above as part of our decision-making processes and when we are reviewing or developing policies.

Due regard for ‘advancing equality’ involves removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics; taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people; and encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

‘Fostering good relations’ involves tackling prejudice and promoting understanding between people from different groups.

The legislation allows for the more favourable of treatment of some people, but only where the more favourable treatment can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of fulfilling the public sector equality duty.

College Response

St Catherine’s College is committed to fulfilling the public sector equality duty.

As part of this commitment we will:

  • annually review the information we publish in relation to our compliance with the equality duty;
  • set equality objectives every four years which are then annually reviewed in the equality report