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Equality Act 2010

Section 14: Combined discrimination: dual characteristics
Effect

64.This section provides for the discrimination prohibited by the Act to include direct discrimination because of a combination of two protected characteristics (“dual discrimination”). The protected characteristics which may be combined are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

65.For a claim to be successful, the claimant must show that the less favourable treatment was because of the combination alleged, as compared with how a person who does not share either of the characteristics in the combination is or would be treated. A dual discrimination claim will not succeed where an exception or justification applies to the treatment in respect of either of the relevant protected characteristics - for example, where an occupational requirement in Schedule 9 (Work: exceptions) renders direct discrimination lawful.

66.The claimant does not have to show that a claim of direct discrimination in respect of each protected characteristic would have been successful if brought separately. A claimant is not prevented from bringing direct discrimination claims because of individual protected characteristics and a dual discrimination claim simultaneously (or more than one dual discrimination claim). Excluded from the scope of this section are circumstances involving disability discrimination in schools (claims in respect of which are heard by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals or equivalent specialist tribunals). This section enables a Minister of the Crown to make orders specifying further what a claimant does or does not need to show to prove dual discrimination or further restricting the circumstances in which dual discrimination is prohibited by the Act.

67.As with any other type of prohibited conduct under the Act, proceedings or allegations (among other activities) relating to dual discrimination will constitute a “protected act” for purposes of victimisation (section 27). Moreover, public bodies must have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful dual discrimination as part of the public sector equality duty (section 149).

Background

68.Previous legislation only allowed for claims alleging discrimination because of a single protected characteristic. This section allows those who have experienced less favourable treatment because of a combination of two relevant protected characteristics to bring a direct discrimination claim, such as where the single-strand approach may not succeed.

Examples
  • A black woman has been passed over for promotion to work on reception because her employer thinks black women do not perform well in customer service roles. Because the employer can point to a white woman of equivalent qualifications and experience who has been appointed to the role in question, as well as a black man of equivalent qualifications and experience in a similar role, the woman may need to be able to compare her treatment because of race and sex combined to demonstrate that she has been subjected to less favourable treatment because of her employer’s prejudice against black women.

  • A bus driver does not allow a Muslim man onto her bus, claiming that he could be a “terrorist”. While it might not be possible for the man to demonstrate less favourable treatment because of either protected characteristic if considered separately, a dual discrimination claim will succeed if the reason for his treatment was the specific combination of sex and religion or belief, which resulted in him being stereotyped as a potential terrorist.

  • A black woman is charged £100 for insurance. As white men are only charged £50 for the same insurance, she alleges this is dual discrimination because of the combination of sex and race. By comparing the claimant’s treatment with a white woman who also pays £100, or a black man who pays £50, the insurance company is able to demonstrate that the difference in premium is entirely due to sex, not race. The insurance exception in Schedule 3 means that insurance companies can lawfully set different premiums for women and men in certain circumstances so provided the exception applies in this case, the treatment does not constitute dual discrimination. The less favourable treatment is because of sex and an exception makes the sex discrimination lawful.

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Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.

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