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Marriage and Civil Partnership Discrimination

Marriage and civil partnership is one of nine ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Marriage is not specifically defined for the purposes of the EqA 2010.  However, the EHRC Code suggests that it ‘will cover any formal union of a man and woman which is legally recognised in the UK as a marriage’.   The Code also suggests that a civil partnership refers to a registered civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 , including those registered outside the UK.

Under section 8(1) of the EqA 2010, a person has the protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership if they are married or a civil partner. Single people and people in relationships outside of a marriage or a civil partnership (whether or not they are cohabiting), divorcees or those who are engaged but not yet married do not have this characteristic.

Direct discrimination takes place against workers who are married or in a civil partnership if the employer treats them less favourably that he treats (or would treat) either a person of the same sex who is not married, or a civil partner, or a person of the opposite sex who is married or a civil partner.   The discriminatory conduct must have come about as a result of his or her status as a married person or civil partner although this may not have to be the only reason. It would not be sufficient to say discrimination occurred because a worker was married to or in a civil partnership with a particular person, but the discrimination must arise as a result of their status of being married or in a civil partnership itself. There are certain circumstances where Genuine Occupational Requirement exceptions for certain jobs provided that the implementation of that requirement is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.  

Indirect discrimination occurs where the employer applies to the worker who is married or in a civil partnership a provision, criterion or practice which applies or would apply equally to all workers who are not married or in a civil partnership but which puts them at a disadvantage without being able to show there it was a proportional means to meet a legitimate aim.