United Kingdom employment equality law is a body of law which legislates against prejudice-based actions in the workplace. As an integral part of UK labour law it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because they have one of the "protected characteristics", which are, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The primary legislation is the Equality Act 2010, which outlaws discrimination in access to education, public services, private goods and services or premises in addition to employment. This follows three major European Union Directives, and is supplement by other Acts like the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Furthermore discrimination on the grounds of work status, as a part-time worker, fixed term employee, agency worker or union membership is banned as a result of a combination of statutory instruments and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, again following European law. Disputes are typically resolved in the workplace in consultation with an employer or trade union, or with advice from a solicitor, ACAS or the Citizens Advice Bureau a claim may be brought in an employment tribunal. The Equality Act 2006 established the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a body designed to strengthen enforcement of equality laws.
Discrimination is unlawful when an employer is hiring a person, in the terms and conditions of contract that are offered, in making a decision to dismiss a worker, or any other kind of detriment. "Direct discrimination", which means treating a person less favourably than another who lacks the protected characteristic, is always unjustified and unlawful, with the exception of age. It is lawful to discriminate against a person because of their age, however, only if there is a legitimate business justification accepted by a court. Where there is an "occupational requirement" direct discrimination is lawful, so that for instance an employer could refuse to hire a male actor to play a female role in a play, where that is indispensable for the job. "Indirect discrimination" is also unlawful, and this exists when an employer applies a policy to their workplace that affects everyone equally, but it has a disparate impact on a greater proportion of people of one group with a protected characteristic than another, and there is no good business justification for that practice. Disability differs from other protected characteristics in that employers are under a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplace to accommodate the needs of handicapped staff. For age, belief, gender, race and sexuality there is generally no positive obligation to promote equality, and positive discrimination is generally circumscribed by the principle that merit must be regarded as the most important characteristic of a person. In the field of equal pay between men and women, the rules differ in the scope for comparators. Any dismissal because of discrimination is automatically unfair and entitles a person to claim under the Employment Rights Act 1996 section 94 no matter how long they have worked.