Last edited 28 Feb 2024

Protected characteristics

Protected characteristics’ was the term introduced by the Equality Act 2010 to refer to legal protection from discrimination in the workplace afforded to certain groups.

The Act replaced anti-discrimination legislation including the Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but while the responsibilities on the part of businesses remained much the same, it was extended to cover the protected characteristics. The nine protected characteristics are:

Engagement Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work, published by the RIBA in January 2024, states: ‘Must adhere to Equality Act 2010 and ensure no discrimination against any individual based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. Wider characteristics should also be explored. It is important these characteristics are discussed in respect of engagement and project design considerations, to encourage best practice. For example, evidence suggests that women may be excluded or underrepresented in stakeholder engagement due to caring responsibilities, lack of time, and social norms prioritising men’s voices. Implementing more inclusive, accessible, and diverse engagement practices is crucial to ensure that seldom-heard voices are part of the decision-making and represent the communities and individuals affected by the project. For more information, refer to the Inclusive Design Overlay for RIBA Plan of Work.’

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