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Equality Act 2010

Section 193: Charities
Effect

608.This section allows charities to provide benefits only to people who share the same protected characteristic (for example sex, sexual orientation or disability), if this is in line with their charitable instrument and if it is objectively justified or to prevent or compensate for disadvantage. It remains unlawful for them to limit their beneficiaries by reference to their colour – and if they do their charitable instrument will be applied as if that limitation did not exist.

609.Charities must not restrict benefits consisting of employment, contract work or vocational training to people who share a protected characteristic, except that the section does allow people to provide, and the Government to agree, arrangements for supported employment only for people with the same disability, or disabilities of a description to be set out in regulations.

610.The section also allows certain charities to make acceptance of a religion or belief a condition of membership, and to refuse members access to benefits if they do not accept a religion or belief where membership itself is not subject to such a condition, if they have done so since before 18 May 2005. It also allows single-sex activities for the purpose of promoting or supporting a charity (such as women-only fun-runs), and allows the charity regulators to exercise their functions in a charity’s interests, taking account of what is said in its charitable instrument, without contravening the Act.

Background

611.This section replaces and harmonises separate exceptions in previous legislation allowing charities to benefit only people of the same sex, racial group, religion or belief or sexual orientation, and creates new exceptions along these lines for charities benefiting only people of the same age group or with the same disability. This section also replicates the effect of other exceptions for charities in previous discrimination law, and creates a new exception in subsection (7) allowing participation in activities to promote or support charities to be restricted to men or women.

Examples
  • It is lawful for the Women’s Institute to provide educational opportunities only to women.

  • It is lawful for the RNIB to employ, or provide special facilities for, visually impaired people in preference to other disabled people.

  • A charitable instrument enabling the provision of benefits to black members of a community actually enables the benefits to be provided to all members of that community.

  • It is lawful for the Scout Association to require children joining the Scouts to promise to do their best to do their duty to God.

  • Race for Life, a women-only event which raises money for Cancer Research UK, is lawful.

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