Acas publishes guidance on marriage and partnership discrimination in the workplace

bloom-1836315_1920Marriage and civil partnership status is one of the lesser know “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act 2010. It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or worker because they are married or in a civil partnership in the same way as it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, sexual orientation or race or one of the other “protected characteristics”.

Acas recently published a guide for employers and employees/workers on marriage and partnership discrimination in the workplace. The guide explains what marriage and civil partnership discrimination is, how it can happen and the key areas of employment when discrimination can occur. There is also guidance on how employees should raise complaints about marriage and civil partnership discrimination, and how employers should handle such complaints.

There are three main types of marriage and civil partnership discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discriminations and victimisation.

Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their marriage or civil partnership status. An example would be where a married member of the team is not promoted because the role would involve travel, and the employer feels that such a role is best suited to a single person.

Indirect discrimination can occur when a workplace rule, practice or procedure is applied to the whole workforce, but which disadvantages people who are married or in a civil partnership, and which cannot be “objectively justified”. Objective justification basically means that the employer must be seeking to achieve a legitimate business aim, and the less favourable treatment is a necessary and proportionate way of achieving that aim.

Victimisation is when a person suffers a disadvantage, damage, harm or loss (known legally as a “detriment”) because they have made or supported a complaint or claim about marriage or civil partnership status.

Employers must ensure that terms and conditions of employment, including contractual benefits, do not generally disadvantage or exclude people because they are married or a civil partner. Also, terms and conditions and benefits given to opposite-sex married employees and their spouses, same-sex married employees and their spouses, and civil partner employees and their partners should generally be the same. This might include pay, being allowed to work flexibly, parental leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, adoption leave or extra days off when an employee gets married or enters into a civil partnership.

Acas has also published a useful factsheet: “Marriage and civil partnership discrimination: top ten myths” which is well worth reading.

If you need advice on discrimination, either for your business or as an employee, please contact Helen Kay on or .

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