A short introduction to equality law – Commons Library Research Briefing


This new briefing from the Commons Library provides an overview of equality law, summarising the main concepts and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

You can find the full briefing here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9448/

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 consolidates most equality law into one Act. It prohibits conduct and creates duties in relation to ‘protected characteristics’. There are nine protected characteristics, listed in section 4 of the Act, ranging from age through to sexual orientation.

The Act prohibits direct and indirect discrimination, and harassment and victimisation. It also prohibits discrimination in relation to something arising from a person’s disability, and creates a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

The Act applies in various scenarios, including at work, in education and in relation to services and public functions.

Public authorities are subject to a Public Sector Equality Duty. The Duty means they must ‘have due regard’ to equality considerations when exercising public functions.

Except for in Northern Ireland, which has its own equality legislation, equality law is largely reserved to the the UK Parliament. The legal concepts in this briefing apply across England, Wales and Scotland.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission was established by the Equality Act 2006, with a duty to promote and encourage understanding of equality and human rights.

Individuals enforce their rights under the Equality Act 2010 before the courts. However, the Commission also has a range of powers at its disposal to enforce equality law at a more institutional level, and often strategically intervenes as a party to litigation if doing so could help develop equality law.



ParliREACH is a Workplace Equality Network (WEN) established to increase awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament.

It aims to provide a platform where under-represented groups can find support and where equality objectives can be progressed.

ParliREACH welcomes anyone who feels that the group will allow them to gain support or voice concerns, regardless of whether you share a relevant protected characteristic.

Please see the ParliNet page.



ParliON, is the Workplace Equality Network (WEN) that promotes inclusion and equality of opportunity across Parliament, and works to raise awareness of issues around socio-economic inclusion.

Protection against discrimination based on social-economic status or background is not protected in legislation, so our work across Parliament is vital.  There is a growing recognition of the importance of encouraging social mobility as an end to itself and to ensure organisations make the most of the talents of all of their staff. We are helping the administrations of both Houses rise to that challenge.

They are working to:

  • raise awareness of issues related to social mobility
  • create a supportive and inclusive environment
  • promote equality of opportunity for all, whatever their socio-economic background

Please see their page on ParliNet.



ParliGENDER is the Workplace Equality Network (WEN) for gender equality in Parliament.

Their aim is to support Parliament and its people in achieving gender equality by identifying and challenging inequality and discrimination and seeking to improve and promote gender equality at every level and in every part of Parliament.

Please see their page on ParliNet.



ParliOUT is the Workplace Equality Network (WEN) in support of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Parliament.

A principal aim of ParliOUT is to make LGBT+ role models from a range of identities and perspectives more visible and accessible.

ParliOUT provides a welcoming social forum and an informal support network open to all on the Parliamentary estate; inclusive of LGBT people with multiple identities and their allies.

Please see their intranet page on ParliNet



ParliAble – Workplace Equality Network in support of Disability

ParliAble is a Workplace Equality Network (WEN) in support of disabled Members and Peers, their staff, staff of both Houses, and others who work on the Parliamentary Estate.  ParliAble is open to both those who consider themselves to have a disability and those who have an interest in supporting disabled people.


  • To provide a safe and supportive network, open to all users of the Parliamentary estate.
  • To offer a sign-post service to anyone who requires support and advice on any disability or health condition issue related to them.
  • To reflect and express the views of our members – to those responsible for Diversity and Inclusion in both Houses, and to Members of both Houses, as appropriate.
  • To provide a variety of events on a regular basis, including social events, which meet the needs and wishes of our members.
  • To organise and run a range of campaigns that raise awareness of particular issues, as well as helping to resolve them.
  • To support the improvement of accessibility across the Parliamentary Estate for the widest range of people.

Find out more on ParliNet.