Protected characteristics: Is your employer/service provider getting them right?

protected characteristics

Is your employer, service provider, Council, NHS Trust, school (etc) getting Equality Law right?

How to check that the protected characteristics are correctly listed and what to do when sex is missing…

Take Action

The Equality Act (2010) identifies 9 protected characteristics.

They are

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • marriage & civil partnership

  • pregnancy & maternity

  • religion or belief

  • race

  • sex

  • sexual orientation

These protected characteristics exist to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly and to guard against discrimination.

It is important that these protected characteristics are correctly listed yet lots of organisations incorrectly list gender instead of sex.

This is incorrect.

For more details and guidance on the Equality Act 2010 see here

All public authorities have a duty to consider or think about how their policies or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. A failure to list sex suggests, at the very least, ignorance of the law which may well lead to such authorities failing to uphold the rights of this protected characteristic properly.

We are therefore asking everyone to check the policies of their local council to see if they are compliant with the Equality Act. If not, please write to them and ask them to make the necessary corrections.

Even if they seem to be compliant on one page, it may be worth writing to ask them to check they are compliant across all their policies as several councils have different terms on different pages.

There should be a contact email on the website.

We have managed to get lots of councils to make the corrections as well as the Welsh Government site. However, we are discovering that many other organisations are also wrongly citing gender as a protected characteristic including OFSTED and the EHRC itself! Please see our statement on this here.

You should feel free to adapt the letter below for any organisation you come across who is not compliant with equality law.

Model Letter


Public Sector Equality Duty & Protected Characteristics

The list of protected characteristics you are using is incorrect.

There are 9 protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation).

You have incorrectly listed gender as a protected characteristic when the protected characteristic is sex.

Not only is this incorrect but it is misleading and may prevent people from accessing their rights under the law.

* Please correct this inaccuracy in all council policies/Please confirm that you are using the correct term of ‘sex’ across all your policies (*adapt as appropriate).

I look forward to hearing from you.

Please send any responses to us via our contact page.

We are collating responses in a spreadsheet which we will share with you when we have it.


We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.