Forms of discrimination prohibited by the Equality Act

The Equality Act prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination based on gender. 

Direct gender-based discrimination means treating women and men differently on the basis of gender, for reasons of pregnancy or childbirth, or for reasons of gender identity and gender expression.

Direct discrimination can be, for example, that

  • a woman is not selected for a position even though she is more qualified than a man selected for the position, and no other acceptable reason than gender is presented for the choice 
  • a service provider only charges men a higher price for a service
  • an employee is dismissed because they are member of a gender minority.

According to the Equality Act, a presumption of indirect discrimination arises when people are treated differently by virtue of a provision, justification or practice that appears to be gender-neutral in terms of gender identity and gender expression, but where the effect of the action is such that the person may actually find themselves in a less favourable position on the basis of gender. Treating a person differently on the basis of their parenthood or family care obligations also constitutes indirect discrimination. 

Indirect discrimination can be, for example

  • A completely female-dominated group of employees is chosen for dismissal, even though the production-related and financial reasons concern the entire company. In this case an assumption may arise of discrimination on the basis of gender. To disprove the assumption, the employer has to provide objective reasons for why it was this group of employees in particular who were chosen to be dismissed.

In legislation, indirect discrimination is connected with the concept of legal justification. According to this concept an action is not deemed discriminative if it had an acceptable objective and if the chosen methods can be considered relevant and necessary from the point of view of the objective.

Discrimination by association or based on assumption

Discrimination is prohibited regardless of whether it is based on the individual themselves or on factual or assumed information relating to another individual (discrimination by association or discrimination based on assumption). A situation based on discrimination by association or discrimination based on assumption can be caused if a person is treated differently e.g. because

  • their spouse is a member of a gender minority
  • they are assumed to be pregnant.