Marriage and Civil Partnership
Under the Equality Act marriage is defined as a 'union between a man and a woman'. Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Being married or in a civil partnership is NOT a protected characteristic for the further and higher education provisions and so does not extend to cover students.
In relation to employment, if the protected characteristic is marriage and civil partnership, direct discrimination only covers less favourable treatment of a worker because the worker themselves is married or a civil partner. Single people and people in relationships outside of marriage or civil partnership (whether or not they are cohabiting), are not protected from direct discrimination because of their status. There is no protection from direct discrimination by association or perception or harassment. However, harassment related to civil partnership could amount to harassment related to sexual orientation.
Benefits which are restricted on the basis of a worker’s marital status are lawful under the Act, provided workers in a civil partnership have access to the same benefit. Workers who are not married or in a civil partnership can be excluded from such benefits.
The Equality and Diversity Team (email: email@example.com or tel: 0117 33 18087) can provide specific advice to colleagues on this area of equality in employment.